Frank Stella is an American painter, sculptor and master printmaker whose idea of a painting as an object, had a profound impact on how we view art. “What you see is what you see.” he said.


Early Life and Education

Frank Stella was born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1936. His father was a gynecologist, his mother schooled in fashion design and painted landscapes. After graduating from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Stella went to Princeton. He majored in history and took art classes at night. Abstract painter Darby Bannard and art critic Michael Fried, were fellow students and friends of Stella’s. The three men had appreciable influence on each others work and remained friends, even after graduation.



Stella moved to New York in 1958 and began a series of Black Paintings, which were made up of controlled bands of black paint, the antithesis of Abstract Expressionism. Four of the Black Paintings were shown as part of the Sixteen Americans exhibit at MoMA in 1959, which catapulted Stella into the limelight of the New York art world.


In the 1960s, Stella began to work with colors and shapes. Much of his early work was done on shaped canvasses, with which he explored the limits of a painting. The shaped canvasses eventually led him to explore both hanging and free-standing sculpture.


He installed printing equipment in his studio and created etchings, lithographs and screenprints, as well as paintings. In 1970, at age 34, Stella became the youngest artist to have a retrospective at MoMA. In 2015, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of Stella’s work from the past sixty years.


Family Life

Stella was married to art critic and historian Barbara Rose from 1961 to 1969. He married his current wife, Dr. Harriet McGurk, a pediatrician, in 1978. Stella had two children with each of his wives. In 2009, Stella was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. At age 82, Stella still lives in the West Village studio he bought in 1967, and works from his studio in upstate New York.


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