American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Curator's Comments: We have waited a long time to find a William Lester
Stevens (1888-1969) 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 we
believe is 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  made his last home in the Pioneer Valley, 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. 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." You must experience this
painting to know its power and beauty
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. He painted murals in the Dedham and
Rockport post offices, the Boston City Hall, and several schools in Boston.  
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 exhibited at the NAD, 1906 (age 18); and among many
others at PAFA annually, 1912-37; Corcoran  biennials, 1914-28 (5 times, with
prizes). By 1964, Stevens had won more awards than any other living artist.
painting shows why--with the power of a genuine masterpiece.
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In Stevens' best work nature exists on a scale beyond human time
and dwarfs "mankind's mechanicals."
Winter Stream. Oil on Canvas, 32 x 36, Signed