Book Review: Ary Stillman from Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism

This first major monograph devoted to Russian-American Ary Stillman is an unabashed celebration of his enormous body of work and evolution from impressionist to abstract artist. Seven authors including art historians and curators cover the scope of Stillman’s life, following his changing phases that included a membership in the New York School and Federation of Modern Painting and Sculptors.

Born in 1891 Stillman was a prolific artist leaving more then 1,500 pieces of which, 80 are showcased here including early works like Portrait of Israel Nachman Brodkey and Wife of Israel Nachman Brodkey that clearly illustrate his connection with the Jewish community. Documenting Stillman’s break from such representational works to what became known as his “white line” technique and on through to later “intertextural” pieces, this follows the political climate of the times and its impact on a bright, sensitive artist searching for expression.

Much thought is devoted to the influence of Stillman’s Jewish heritage, the effect of the Holocaust, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and other historical highpoints had on his work. These references add a sense of relevance to the pieces that would be lacking should one simply view them in a gallery setting. Editor James Wechsler has taken a comprehensive selection of Stillman’s work, carefully reproduced in full, rich color along with thoughtful essays by those who understand the impact he had on the development of modern art made this a stunning tribute to a brilliant artist. 

 

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