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Definition: Stella, Frank Philip from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


♦ US painter

Born in Malden, Massachusetts, he studied at Phillips Academy and Princeton (1954-58). His earliest Minimalist paintings, symmetrical patterns of black stripes, date from 1959. Later he originated the "shaped canvas" style, employing non-traditional formats painted with brightly coloured stripes. Using house-painters' techniques to avoid any trace of artistic brushwork, he created a totally impersonal effect, which made a significant impression on younger artists such as Donald Judd. From the 1970s he introduced relief into his paintings, and in the 1990s he turned to sculpture and architectural projects.

Summary Article: Stella, Frank
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

1936–, American artist, b. Malden, Mass. In his early “black paintings” Stella exhibits the precision and rationality that characterized minimalism, employing parallel angular stripes to emphasize the rectangular shape of his large canvases. His innovative and influential use of irregularly shaped canvases first appeared in his metallic series in 1960. Later examples of his work stress color in decorative curved motifs. In the 1970s and 80s, Stella abandoned the studied, minimalist aesthetic in favor of a more improvised, dynamic, and dramatic idiom in mixed-media. During that time he abandoned flat paintings and instead created large, jutting, multipart, three-dimensional painting-constructions that often incorporate bright colors, enlarged versions of French curves, and lively brushstroke patterns.

Stella's work became fully three-dimensional in the early 1990s in a series of dense abstract sculptures composed of found and cast elements in stainless steel and bronze. These unpainted and often large-scale metal wall constructions, with their tangled, layered, and looping shapes, project an air of vibrant spontaneity. One of his most important and monumental sculptures is Prince of Homburg (1995–2001), installed outside the National Gallery of Art's East Building, Washington, D.C. Each of Stella's styles of painting and construction have been executed in series; as of 2015, the date of his retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, he had created some 50 of these series. Throughout his career, Stella also has been a prolific printmaker. His works are included in numerous museum and corporate collections worldwide.

  • See Frank Stella: An Illustrated Biography (1996) by Guberman, S. ;.
  • studies by W. Rubin (1980), L. Rubin, ed. (1986), and A. Pacquement (1988).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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