Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 NSAA Season Opens with Robert Douglas Stephenson Retrospective, May 6 through June 11

'Half Moon Beach', Robert Stephenson
The North Shore Arts Association proudly presents a comprehensive retrospective of the work of artist member Robert D. Stephenson (1935 -2015). The exhibition is curated by Tom Nicholas, N.A., and T.M. Nicholas, who generously gave of their time and energies to mount this show. The show opens May 6 through June 11, 2016, with a reception free and open to the public on Sunday, May 15 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Robert Stephenson was born on August 21, 1935 in Gloucester, the oldest of two sons born to Charles Francis Stephenson and Cora (Douglas) Stephenson. At 8 years old, his mother arranged for Robert to study art with noted artist Alice Beach Winter at her home studio at 134 Mt. Pleasant Avenue in East Gloucester. Alice Beach Winter and her artist husband Charles Allen Winter were winter residents of New York City and began summering in Gloucester in 1914. Alice was every bit the artistic equal of her husband having studied at the Art Students League and exhibiting regularly at the National Academy of Design. After the couple's marriage, Alice's teaching, portrait work, and illustrations did much to support the family, leaving Charles free to concentrate on his painting. Their lives in New York City put them into the social center of the most forward thinking artists of the day.
Alice and Charles became full time residents of East Gloucester starting in 1931 where they became influential teachers in the artist community. Many of the great American artists of the day found their way to Paris, Rome, and beyond to study in the French ateliers and to bring home the newest ideas being espoused in the artist circles of Europe. The artists who surrounded the Winters proved to be a veritable "Who's Who" of American Art. Among the artists they socialized with were such notables as John Sloan, Robert Henri, Leon Kroll, Aldro T. Hibbard, W. Lester Stevens, Jane Peterson, and William Glackens.
'The Red Cottage', Alice Beach Winter
Under Alice's tutelage and in the atmosphere of her eclectic studio in The Red Cottage, which was filled with props, costumes, curios, and architectural fragments brought back from distant places, Bob Stephenson's youthful imagination caught fire. In his teens, he painted a large sea serpent on the rocks at Cressy's Beach, which was much loved and is fondly remembered by many in Gloucester. Bob's artistic development was further developed by the encouragement and teachings of his influential mentor, Howard Curtis, one of the great Gloucester painters, who was the head of the Art Department at Gloucester High School. Curtis, a deeply contemplative and spiritual man, certainly influenced the spiritual dimension that is so evident in Bob's mature artwork.
Bob showed great academic promise as well as artistic talent, winning the coveted Sawyer Medal for Academic Excellence. Having been exposed to the romance of other cultures and places in his early years, he was well prepared, after graduation from Gloucester High School, to take advantage of the travel and experiences afforded by entering the U.S. Army. He traveled throughout the world during his 27 year career, traveling extensively through Southeast Asia and the Far East. It was during his time spent in the Far East that Bob's interest in Buddhism took hold.
'The Art Class', Robert Stephenson
Upon his retirement as a U.S. Army Sergeant Major, and with a treasure trove of images stored in his imagination, he took up brushes and revisited his love of art. He studied with John Terelak at the Gloucester Academy, where one of his fellow students was T.M. Nicholas. They soon became fast friends and Bob was a frequent and welcome visitor at the home of Tom and Gloria Nicholas. . Later Bob studied with Tom Nicholas, N.A. and traveled to the West Coast taking workshops and painting with Tom Nicholas. Returning home, Bob was given the honor of being chosen  "artist in residence" at the Fitz Henry Lane House and later he would open a permanent studio at his home on Parsons Street, which was open to all during working hours. Bob and his frequent visitors to the studio held forth on any and all subjects; politics, art, religion, and more were open for discussion.
One test of the impact of a man's life lies in the quantity and depth of the anecdotes that are told of his life and character. By this measure, Bob's life was one of great import. He was much loved by the many friends who knew him best. The dry, acerbic nature of his wit, his wide ranging intellect, and his ability to imbibe a well known scene with layers of foreign atmosphere and a touch of swashbuckling romance still take us along with him on his journeys of the imagination.

The North Shore Arts Association is indebted to Bob Stephenson's friends and fellow artists, Jill Whitney Armstrong and Bob Armstrong, owners of  iartcolony, 42 Broadway, Rockport, MA for the use of the following video which was produced by Jill Armstrong for iartcolony's 2012 Invitational Artist Exhibition of Robert Stephenson's work.

A Retrospective of Bob Stephenson's Artwork Opens NSAA's 94th Season
by Gail McCarthy, Gloucester Times Staff Writer, April 27, 2016

Robert “Bob” Stephenson’s legacy survives on his beloved Cape Ann through those who enjoy the image of a sea serpent he painted decades ago on rocks in a harbor, and through others who grew to admire the enigmatic artist who lived off Main Street and became part of the local art circles.In a tribute to one of Cape Ann’s creative giants, the North Shore Arts Association will open its 94th season on Friday, May 6, with a retrospective dedicated to Stephenson’s art.Many of Stephenson’s paintings were notable for the complex cloud designs he painted among his prolific works. Nebulous and cirrus describe both the artist and the cloud formations that erupt on his canvases, while other works exude a dreamlike or mysterious quality.“Perhaps he was most innovative with his concept for how a cloudy sky was adjusted to the landscape,” says Rockport’s Tom Nicholas. “One of the things he did, which a lot of artists don’t do, was he painted the sky as you wouldn’t expect it. If you had a complicated landscape, many would keep the sky simple. But (Stephenson) would think nothing of making it a complicated sky and it created a lot of movement.” He looks at nature and makes it his own, Nicholas adds.Nicholas, a National Academician, and his son, T.M. Nicholas, an accomplished painter, looked through 140 of Stephenson’s paintings, out of which they selected about 40 works to be part of this exhibition.“Bob would take a subject he was interested in and added his own particular view of what the painting needed,” Nicholas says. “In order to express himself, he instinctively put more of himself into the painting. He would improvise to a great extent. That’s what it is all about — self expression, and his standard was high.”....please click HERE to see Gail McCarthy's complete article published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

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