12 May 1936
; Malden, Massachusetts, United States *
Frank Stella is an Italian American painter and printmaker, significant in the art movement called ”post-painterly abstraction”. His early works anticipates many elements of minimalism, which is why he is also considered by some a minimalist, although most of his later artworks are not strictly minimalist.
Stella was born in Malden, Massachusetts, to parents of Italian descent. After attending high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, he attended Princeton University, where he majored in history and met Darby Bannard and Michael Fried. Early visits to New York art galleries influenced his artist development, and his work was influenced by the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. Stella moved to New York in 1958, after his graduation. He is one of the most well-regarded postwar American painters still working today. Frank Stella has reinvented himself in consecutive bodies of work over the course of his five-decade career. Notably, he is heralded for creating abstract paintings that bear no pictorial illusions or psychological or metaphysical references in twentieth-century painting.
Upon moving to New York City, he reacted against the expressive use of paint by most painters of the abstract expressionist movement, instead finding himself drawn towards the "flatter" surfaces of Barnett Newman's work and the "target" paintings of Jasper Johns. He began to produce works which emphasized the picture-as-object, rather than the picture as a representation of something, be it something in the physical world, or something in the artist's emotional world. Stella married Barbara Rose, later a well-known art critic, in 1961. Around this time he said that a picture was "a flat surface with paint on it - nothing more". Later he introduced more colors and relief to his paintings, while also moving towards „shaped canvas” painting.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a retrospective of Stella’s work in 1970, making him the youngest artist to receive one. Stella’s work was included in several important exhibitions that defined 1960s art, among them the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s The Shaped Canvas (1965) and Systemic Painting (1966). His art has been the subject of several retrospectives in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Among the many honors he has received was an invitation from Harvard University to give the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures in 1984. In 2009, Frank Stella was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. Stella continues to live and work in New York. He also remains active in protecting the rights for artists.