Joseph Stella (American, June 13, 1877–November 5, 1946) was a Futurist painter known for his association with the American Precisionism movement and his works depicting industrial America. Stella was born in Lucano, Italy. In 1896, he relocated to New York, NY, to study medicine. After becoming interested in art, Stella left his medical studies and began to study art at the Art Students League of New York. While there, he studied under William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916). During this time, Stella's early works featured a Rembrandt style and depicted scenes from city slum life.

Between the years of 1905 and 1909, Stella was employed as an illustrator. He was commissioned to paint a series based on industrial Pittsburgh in 1908. While visiting Italy in 1909, Stella was exposed to Modernism for the first time. This exposure would later heavily influence his unique personal style. He also became associated with several Italian Futurist artists during this time. In 1913, Stella returned to New York and painted several works, including Mardi Gras, Battle of Lights, and Coney Island. He also participated in the New York Armory Show of 1913.

During the 1920s, Stella became interested in the geometric lines reflected in the architecture of Lower Manhattan. In the works he produced during this time, Stella combined the elements of Futurism and Cubism. His most famous work, featuring the Brooklyn Bridge, was produced during this time. Another well-known work produced in this period is New York Interpreted. Comprised of five panels, this work depicts various skyscrapers and bridges. The work reflects a popular concept of the time that industry would eventually take the place of religion in modern life. In the 1930s, Stella traveled throughout the world and was inspired by such locations as North Africa and the West Indies. During this time, Stella utilized a variety of styles, including Realism, Surrealism, and Abstraction. These works included religious themes, city themes, nature and botanical studies, and Caribbean landscapes. The artist died on November 5, 1946.

Timeline

1877
Born June 13 in Muro Lucano, Italy
1896–1897
Emigrates to New York in 1896; studies at The Art Students League, New York, 1897
1898–1900
Studies under William Merritt Chase at the New York School of Art
1901
Attends Chase’s summer school in Shinnecock, Long Island
1900–1905
Lives in Lower East Side, Manhattan
1905–1908
Works as illustrator to earn money
1909–1910
Travels to Europe, primarily Italy
1910
Solo show of drawings at Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; exhibition travels to Chicago and New York
1911
Lives in Paris; meets avant-garde artists, including: Modigliani, Matisse, Carra, and most likely Severini and Boccioni
1913
Participates in Armory Show, New York
1914
Painting Battle of Lights, Coney Island is exhibited in group show at Montross Gallery, New York; travels to Europe for summer
1915
Meets Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp at Walter and Louise Arensberg’s New York apartment (Arensberg’s collection becomes the core of the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art)
1919–1920
Shows at Bourgeois Gallery, New York, including retrospective exhibition in 1920; Katherine Dreier appoints Stella to exhibition committee of Société Anonyme, along with Duchamp and Man Ray
1922–1923
Serves as one of forty directors of the Salons of America; exhibits New York Interpreted, a large painting at the Société Anonyme
1925
Solo show at Dudensing Galleries, New York; exhibits there through 1935
1926
Travels to Europe and remains in Naples for most of next eight years, with occasional trips to France and New York; exhibits work at Valentine Gallery, New York; Galerie Sloden, Paris; and Galerie Jeune Peinture, Paris
1928, 1931
Solo shows at Valentine Gallery, New York
1930
Visits North Africa
1934
Returns to New York to live with his wife in the Bronx across from the New York Botanical Garden
1935
Employed for next two years in easel division of Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project
1936
Solo exhibition at the Cooperative Gallery, Newark (later to become known as Rabin & Krueger where Stella’s work is exhibited through 1975)
1937–1939
Travels to Barbados, 1938; retrospective at The Newark Museum, New Jersey, 1939
1940
Elected member of American Federation of Painters and Sculptors
1941
Solo exhibition at Associated American Artists, New York
1942
Solo show at Knoedler Galleries, New York
1946
Dies of heart attack on November 5th; buried in Woodlawn Cemetry, Bronx, New York

Exhibitions

2008
Paradigms and the Unexpected: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Shey Collection, Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL
2007
The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America, First Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN
2007
Modernisms, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
2006
Seletions from the Baker/Pisano Collection, Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY
2006
Measure of Time, Berkeley Art Museum and pacific Film Archive BAM/PFA, Berkeley, CA
2005
Macchine Naturali, Peter Freeman, Inc., Ner York City, NY
2005
Still Life - A Vital Theme, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
2005
Villa America - American Moderns - 1900-1950, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach
2005
Art In Bloom - Works from the Permanent Collection, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL
2004
American Modernism, Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York City, NY
2004
Everyday Mysteries: Modern and Contemporary Still Life, DC Moore Gallery, New York City, NY
2003
Debating American Modernism - Stieglitz, Duchamp, and the New York Avant-Garde
2002
Modern Metropolis, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Poughkeepsie, NY
2001
Animating the Inanimate - The Life of Still LIfe, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL
2001
Eye of Modernism, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM
2000
Modernism & Abstration - Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME
1998
Joseph Stelle: Flora, Eaton Fine Art, West Palm Beach, FL