Frank Stella’s characteristic colorful shapes and abstract geometric patterns have changed the world of abstract painting and his reputation continues to ensure his influence when it comes to selling at auction in Fort Lauderdale.
That said, these six interesting and lesser-known facts about Frank Stella make for great conversation starters and an accessible approach to learning more about the man behind his monumentally influential works.
1. Stella’s First Painting Gig Was Retouching the Exterior of Boats and Houses
Stella grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, where his first-generation Sicilian immigrant parents drove home the importance of developing a strong work ethic at a young age.
While his mother was artistically inclined and enjoyed painting landscapes in her free time, his father was hard-working gynecologists who believed that engaging in manual labor was an important learning experience. As such, mostly at the bequest of his father, Stella would regularly paint and re-touch local houses and boats.
In fact, when he first moved to New York, he would still paint houses as a way to make ends meet, and he used the same supplies he would take to work to create his well-known Black Paintings series between 1958 and 1960. However, his house painting job didn’t just filter into his work in terms of materials.
Early photo essays show Stella using the same techniques he would use to cover the side of a house to color his canvas and this trademark technique of using concentric lines that start on the outside and move toward the center that has come to define his seminal style.
2. Stella Made New York His Home
Shortly after graduating back in 1958, Frank Stella packed up his bag and moved to the Big Apple. So why did he choose New York? Stella is quoted as saying about his chosen home, “I came here because it was the place where you could see art that I was interested in — it’s as simple as that.”
Indeed, the front-row exposure he gained to some of the great Abstract Expressionists like Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock from that first rented apartment would become major influences in terms of his own work as he continued to carve out his own unique niche. His famous 1959 work, ‘The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II,’ was a meditation on the less-than-desirable living conditions he endured in his first studio.
To this day, Stella still maintains his permanent residence in Manhattan, the bustling city offering the ideal contrast to his countryside studio in upside New York.
3. Young Frank Stella Was Not Above a Scuffle
While Stella may have attended a prestigious private school in his teen years, he still maintained a reputation for feistiness despite his privileged upbringing. In fact, Stella was once lost three teeth after getting tangled up in a dormitory fight.
That said, Stella was no daft goon. He might have been a bit of a troublemaker, but his rebellious defiance was paired with a marked intelligence, and he excelled in his studies, not to mention lacrosse. His academic performance bought him a ticket to Princeton, where he studied history. It was here that he started to paint.
4. Stella Broke Onto the World Stage at Young Age
There was no beating around the bush when it comes to Stella’s rise to fame. At the age of 25, his work was already being featured in an exhibition at the MOMA Gallery in New York. Even more impressively, he hosted his first retrospective event when he was only 34 years old, an age where many artists are just getting their feet in the door.
Stella spent the opening of the event cooped up in a hospital bed after having undergone knee surgery, but not one to waste time, he managed to pump out rolls of drawings during his recovery. This impressive work ethic helps explain his speedy ascent to the top.
5. He Revolutionized the World of Printmaking and Canvas Alike
In terms of his innovative style in working with canvas, Stella has been referred to as a ‘sculptor painter.’ This can be attributed to the fact that he took the innovative approach of attempting to mitigate a perceived discordance between the form of the canvas itself and the lines he painted on it by removing parts of the works that he perceived to be gratuitous. This experimental technique is evident in works like ‘Aluminum Painting’ and ‘Copper Paintings’ produced between 1960-1961.
He would go on to continue to develop his idea of extending the shaping the canvas throughout the course of the next decade, a style which he himself described as ‘maximalist.’
However, the canvas medium wasn’t the only field where Stella broke new ground. He is also considered a pioneer in the realm of printmaking as well. Influenced by friend and printmaking genius Kenneth Tyler during the 1960s, he filled a magic marker with lithography fluid, thus opening the door to a printmaking phase that would prove just as innovative and groundbreaking as his canvas works.
His prints are the product of a characteristically inventive combination of techniques that include screenprinting, etching, lithography and offset lithography, which is likewise a method that was created and brought to life by Stella himself.
With this in mind, it is no wonder that his work continues to be so highly coveted at art auction houses in Dania Beach and beyond.
6. Stella Doesn’t Measure His Lines
Given the seemingly precise geometric proportions of his unique line-based ‘pinstripe paintings,’ Stella doesn’t actually measure out the lines as the moniker implies, but rather, draws them freehand.
Over the years, many critics have assumed that Stella uses masking tape to create the characteristic look, but in reality, it is actually the subtle imperfections and gently arching bows of the stretched canvas that truly bring his works to life and continues to make his one-of-a-kind style a hit at jewelry auctions in Dania Beach.