John Stephan

American, 1906–1995

118 followers

John Stephan

Bio

American, 1906–1995

Followers
118
Biography

John Stephan (1906-1995) devoted himself exclusively to disc paintings for the last three decades of his artistic career. These nearly square compositions, always just inches taller than they are wide, each comprise a central monochrome circle delineated from its ground by multiple bands of contrasting colors. Depending how the particular colors come alive in relation to one another, the central orb floats or recedes, emanating pulsing energy or enveloping the gaze.

The monumental achievement of Stephan's disc paintings stands on the solid foundation of a lifetime of artistic accomplishment. Having painted urban landscapes and worked as a WPA artist through the 1930s, John Stephan truly came of age as an artist after World War II. An important figure in the development of Abstract Expressionism, Stephan showed at the Betty Parsons Gallery and counted among his close associates Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman.

With poet (and then wife) Ruth Stephan, he published The Tiger's Eye, an influential "little magazine" that chronicled the creative ferment of the period. Inspired by William Blake's "Tyger," the title symbolized the editors' faith in the power of creative vision, as did John Stephan's design for the cover which prominently features an abstracted eye. The publication featured European and American Surrealists, members of the Latin American avant garde, and young American painters soon to become known as Abstract Expressionists. The artists, among them Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Adolph Gottlieb, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Rufino Tamayo, and Mark Tobey, as well as art editor and co-publisher John Stephan himself, range across the cultural forefront of the post-war period.

His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Cincinnati Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Loyola University in Chicago and numerous other institutions.

Related Categories
Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Fair
Included in a major biennial
Whitney Biennial
Biography

John Stephan (1906-1995) devoted himself exclusively to disc paintings for the last three decades of his artistic career. These nearly square compositions, always just inches taller than they are wide, each comprise a central monochrome circle delineated from its ground by multiple bands of contrasting colors. Depending how the particular colors come alive in relation to one another, the central orb floats or recedes, emanating pulsing energy or enveloping the gaze.

The monumental achievement of Stephan's disc paintings stands on the solid foundation of a lifetime of artistic accomplishment. Having painted urban landscapes and worked as a WPA artist through the 1930s, John Stephan truly came of age as an artist after World War II. An important figure in the development of Abstract Expressionism, Stephan showed at the Betty Parsons Gallery and counted among his close associates Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman.

With poet (and then wife) Ruth Stephan, he published The Tiger's Eye, an influential "little magazine" that chronicled the creative ferment of the period. Inspired by William Blake's "Tyger," the title symbolized the editors' faith in the power of creative vision, as did John Stephan's design for the cover which prominently features an abstracted eye. The publication featured European and American Surrealists, members of the Latin American avant garde, and young American painters soon to become known as Abstract Expressionists. The artists, among them Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Adolph Gottlieb, Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Rufino Tamayo, and Mark Tobey, as well as art editor and co-publisher John Stephan himself, range across the cultural forefront of the post-war period.

His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Cincinnati Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Loyola University in Chicago and numerous other institutions.

Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Fair
Included in a major biennial
Whitney Biennial
Get the Artsy iOS app
Discover, buy, and sell art by the world’s leading artists
To download, scan this code with your phone’s camera