Friday, April 08, 2011

Arty Farty Friday ~ Joseph Stella

Joseph Stella (self portrait, left). Not a household name, except perhaps in the households of real art aficionados. I'm not one of those, but having seen some of his work online, I admire his versatility. He was equally skilled in sensitive charcoal sketches of an almost classical nature, and bold futurist oils.

Biographical information which follows is taken from Thoughts on his natal chart come later in post.

Stella was born in 1877 in a mountain town in southern Italy, and in 1896 he emigrated to New York. After a brief fling with medical studies, Joseph Stella trained for two years at the New York School of Art under painter William Merritt Chase, who instilled in him the value of artistic experimentation and an appreciation for the Old Masters.

Fascinated by the urban melting pot around him, the young Stella began to depict fellow immigrants, laborers, vagabonds and characters from New York's lower East Side in fine drawings that showed the "crude side of their life," as he put it. In 1905 Stella produced for the social reform weekly The Outlook, a series of illustrations of immigrants at Ellis Island, entitled "Americans in the Rough." This group of pencil-and-charcoal character sketches from life--precise, carefully shaded and filled with empathy for their subjects--reflected a strong Old Master influence.

Below 1.Old time Irish Immigration. 2. British-born. 3. Tired Out

In the Bread Line

In 1907 another social welfare publication, Charities and Commons--which later became The Survey--dispatched him to Monongah, West Virginia, to illustrate an account of the mine disaster that had wiped out half the working population of the town. Stella was deeply moved by the human tragedy he encountered, and his powerful drawings enhanced the periodical's plea for improved mine safety laws. Below: Rescue Workers, Monongah Mine.

The following year Stella was commissioned by The Survey to illustrate "The Pittsburgh Survey", an ambitious investigation of what were termed "conditions of life and labor of wage-earners of the American steel district." The series of articles examined transportation, courts, charities, housing, water supply, public health and prejudice against immigrants. The Survey concluded by calling for enforcement of stricter working and housing regulations, improved medical services and educational opportunities, and tolerance and acceptance of the workers themselves.

The artist is reported to have said:
"I was greatly impressed by Pittsburgh. It was a real revelation. Often shrouded by fog and smoke, her black mysterious mass--cut in the middle by the fantastic tortuous Allegheny River and like a battlefield, ever pulsating, throbbing with the innumerable explosions of its steel mills--was like the stunning realization of some of the most stirring infernal regions sung by Dante"
At the Base of the Blast Furnace



Born on 13 June 1877 in Muro Locarno, Italy. chart set for 12 noon. Moon's degree and ascending sign will not be accurate as shown.

Sun and Mercury in Gemini easily translate to the following description taken from the piece linked above.
Stella was peripatetic and volatile, and his personal life was equally unsettled. Although married for years, he and his wife lived apart frequently and he had a number of mistresses. An animated conversationalist with a bombastic personality, he made many friends--and enemies.

Much of the following description of his appearance though says (to me) Taurus. I'd not be a bit surprised to discover that Taurus was rising as he was born. His Cancer Moon (it'd be in that sign whatever birthtime) might also connect to his rather "rounded" appearance.

Describing him in 1926 a friend noted "his huge dome pierced by two black mobile eyes of liquid lava...a stubby nose and a large, articulate mouth...all planted on a large, robust neck firmly attached to a dynamic torso."

His versatility and lack of adherence to one particular style is inherited from Gemini Sun and Mercury. Note the following:
By the time he died in 1946 he was pretty well out of sight. Commentators expressed perplexity about how to evaluate his seemingly enigmatic, stylistically diverse body of work. It was, Baur commented, "a nightmare for the art historian." Because it was impossible to pigeonhole Stella in any particular movement or group, he tended to be ignored. Starting around 1970, art historians and museum curators, unfazed by the difficulty of identifying him with any single classification, began to pierce the Stella enigma. Many have come to regard the variety of subjects, styles and media in which he worked as a plus, the singular vision of an individual artist of quality and importance.

More examples of Stella's painting:
Battle of Lights. Coney Island.

Apotheosis of the Rose

Old Brooklyn Bridge


Brooklyn Bridge


anyjazz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anyjazz said...

Interesting, thoughtful man. Stirring images. Good post.

Astrology Unboxed said...

I have not much to say, except I enjoyed discovering Joseph Stella's artwork.As I was reading your post, I realized that I discovered many really good artists, writers, musicians and movies thanks to your efforts, Twilight. Thus, I want to thank you for all your hard work of promoting all these wonderful and worthwhile discoveries.

I have been enjoying your posts for a long time, but never said so. Let me remediate the situation.

James Higham said...

One of your best - most interesting.

Gian Paul said...

Jupiter (R) at the end of Sagittarius, opposite his Sun/Venus may explain his versatility and having emigrated to the US.

He's an excellent artist - and probably was (as others of his profession) a good "bon-vivant" as well.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Yes, talent put to good use!


Astrology Unboxed (Fabienne)~ Oh how kind! Thank you, Fabienne. I enjoy the research and putting together of these posts, just for the heck of it. And I'm learning too. It's a nice bonus to know that they are enjoyed. :-)


James Higham ~~~~ Thank you kindly, James. :-)


Gian Paul ~~~
:-) Yes - thanks for the extra astrological note. He does look like a bon vivant doesn't he!