American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:        William Lester Stevens
Artist Dates:          1888-1969      
Title:          
Winter Stream By Moonlight
Painting Date:       1935
Medium:               Oil on Canvas       
Signature:             
Signed Lower Right     
Provenance:          
Private Collection
Condition:             Excellent      
Size Unframed:      
32 x 36
Size Framed:          37 x 41     
Frame Condition:   
Mint Reproduction
Artist Best Price:    $28,100
Offered At:            CALL
Curator's Comments: We have waited a long time to
find a Stevens with the qualities that make him truly
outstanding, and at last we've got another masterpiece that
once again demonstrates nature's power over the human
environment. As Thomas Hart Benton said of the Great
Plains, "The indifference of the physical world to all human
efforts stands revealed as hard inescapable fact." This is
the meaning of "Winter Stream By Moonlight," which may
be Stevens' finest landscape ever. The work is large and the
scale is huge, adding to the painting's power. We have had
the work cleaned by the noted restorer Simon Parkes--and
the result is just magnificent--going far beyond our image.

Stevens liked to paint and is estimated to have produced
more than 5,000 canvases in his lifetime. The majority were
in oil, but he was versatile in watercolor, guache, pastel and
later acrylic. That said, his style is all his own, with its mix
of impasto and washes, and his work is always shaped by his
unique identity as a painter. He made his last home in the
Pioneer Valley, with a base in Conway, MA, at his restored
Cricket Hill farm house, but he painted as far west as the
Hoosic Valley and to the east along the Mohawk River to
Greenfield. Throughout, his focus was always nature, but
not nature morte. Instead, at his best, Stevens gives us his
unique sense of nature as a deep force concerned with its
own survival, a survival not without scars and weathering,
something almost beyond mankind, and linked to a force
that is even stronger than we can know. A superb
craftsman, Stevens painted rapidly and with assurance, but
always took time to find the best vantage point. He
understood the importance of placing himself where he
could create the best composition and took the liberty of
moving objects so the composition would meet his desires.

But his juxtaposition of the landscape is for a purpose. This
is what he meant when he commented that "fine pictures
are the result of fine minds."
There is in the later works a vision that those who have trekked these hills recognize as almost an
obesession, which led Stevens to repeatedly memorialize the distant cemetary on the hillside where
his wife was buried. Nature is often brooding, sometimes malevolent, grotesque and always powerful.
In the absolute American masterpiece that we offer, note how the trefoil claws of the branches of the
fallen limb hold the scene in winter's strengthening grip. The leaves continue to fall and the ice is
closing the stream slowly but surely. But the green of the pines is emerging, opening a ray of hope.
We have seen nothing better in Stevens!

Stevens was born  in  Rockport, Massachusetts in 1888. He received his first art training from Parker
Perkins, a local marine painter who charged him 50 cents an hour. Later he studied in Boston with
Edmund Tarbell, but the influence of Tarbell did not take root. Instead it was World War I that had
the most and longest lasting influence on Stevens, who was in Europe in 1917. He gave us no epic
such as Sargent
's famous Gassed, but it is clear that the war helped shape his mature work and its
incipient tension. When Stevens reurned to Rockport, it had started to become the painterly retreat
that would make it the New England impressionists' coastal hub. And he studied here with  Duveneck,
among others, including Frank Benson, Philip Hale and William Paxton. Stevens, along with his
friend Aldro Hibbard, was instrumental in organizing the Rockport Art Association in 1921, with the
goal of making art more accessible to common people. He painted murals in the Dedham and
Rockport post offices, the Boston City Hall, and several schools in Boston. In 1934 he moved to an
old, remodeled farmhouse in Conway, MA which looks north towards Mount Monadnock, and where
he built a studio and painted New England scenes for the rest of his life. Except for summer trips
made in the 1960s to Lubec, Maine, Campobello Island and Grand Manan Island, Stevens lived and
painted in Conway for the rest of his life. Stevens died on June 10, 1969 in nearby Greenfield.He was
Professor of Painting at Princeton University, and also taught at Boston University, and at the
Springfield Art Museum. He was a National Academician and a member of the American Watercolor
Society. He won  awards at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; American Watercolor Society;
and in New Haven, Springfield, Washington and Rockport. The 1930's brought Stevens commercial
and personal success through a number of magazine covers for
The American Legion Magazine. He
exhibited at the NAD, 1906 (age 18); and among many others at PAFA annually, 1912-37; Corcoran  
biennials, 1914-28 (5 times, with prizes); Quincy, 1932 (medal); Wash. Ldscp. Club, 1939 (prize);
Wash. Art Club, 1941 (prize); Ogunquit, ME, 1952-54 (prizes); Gloucester, MA, 1958 (prize); and his
work hangs in museums in  Rochester, Springfield, Boston, Gloucester, Rockport, and Washington.
By 1964, Stevens had won more awards than any other living artist.
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In Stevens' best work nature exists on a
scale beyond human time and dwarfs all
of "mankind's mechanicals"--a la  
Faulkner.