Ary Stillman was born February 13, 1891
in a tiny village near Slutzk, White Russia. His early artistic
talents appeared quickly and after his graduation from the school
in Slutzk, he entered the Imperial School of Art in Vilna.
Ary at top-right
In 1907, after less than two years in Vilna, Ary
came to the United States and took up residence with family
in Sioux City, Iowa. There he worked in a jewelry store and
devoted his free time to painting. In 1912, Ary had a short
interlude of study at the Art Institute of Chicago. Then in
1919 he went to New York City where he enrolled at once at the
National Academy of Design (now National Academy Museum and School
of Fine Arts). During the day Ary painted at the Academy and
in the evenings at either the Art Students League or The Jewish
Educational Alliance. The second year in New York, Ary began
to think about going to Europe.
Ary Stillman arrived in Paris in 1921 where he
lived and worked for the next 12 years. It was in 1928 when he
had his first one man show there at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune.
In the following years he exhibited regularly in Paris at the
Salon d'Automne, Salon National des Beaux-Arts and the Salon de
During these Paris years, his work was largely objective,
but a careful study of his early canvases shows a definite preoccupation
with the abstract core of his painting, and a continued interest
in the arrangement of shapes to express a subjective meaning.
The more academic nature of what we might call his Parisian period
formed the necessary foundation for his later work in abstract
When Ary Stillman returned to New York in 1933,
he came as an established painter. His paintings were still representational
but with a subjectivity which continued to mark his works. It
soon became evident that the artist was not concerned with superficial
aspects but with the deeper inner content of his subject. Perhaps
this is one of the reasons that we find him turning gradually
to abstraction and to non-objective forms. By the close of World
War II, Ary Stillman found himself in a self-created world of
abstract forms, always searching for a visible expression to the
reality in life.
By 1948, Stillman's work became entirely non-figurative.
From 1949 to 1954 Ary had annual one person shows at the Bertha
Schaefer Gallery in New York.
Declining vision in one eye and the loss of his
treasured studio in Manhattan to developers brought on a period
of depression in Ary during the mid-50s. He tried living again
in Paris and Majorca, but eventually returned briefly to New York.
After a winter visit to Houston at the invitation
of his sister, Ary returned to Mexico in the spring of 1957. From
1957 to 1962, Ary lived and worked in Cuernavaca, Mexico. From
1962 to his death in January 1967, Ary Stillman lived in Houston,
A retrospective of his work was shown at the Museum
of Fine Arts, Houston, in February 1972.
For more information see "Reminiscences,
The Personal Life of Artist Ary Stillman"