Frank Stella (b. 1936)

A key figure in post-war American art, Frank Stella was one of the progenitors of Minimalism and is today considered one of America’s greatest living artists.


Stella was born in 1936 and grew up in a suburb of Boston. In 1954, he began studying history at Princeton University, where he took night classes in painting and drawing. Four years later, he moved to New York to pursue a career as an artist, sharing a studio with Carl Andre, with whom he was a close friend. Inspired by Jasper Johns’ work, Stella began exploring the nature of painting; using household enamel paint, he applied roughly painted monochrome stripes on canvases. Just a year later, aged just 23, Stella made a major breakthrough in his art, gaining critical acclaim and wide scale recognition for his radical Black Paintings. Offering a new form of entirely abstract painting that stood in diametric opposition to the prevailing tendency of Abstract Expressionism, these works caught the attention of Leo Castelli, who asked him to join his eponymous gallery. In December 1959, four of his Black Paintings were included in the seminal exhibition, ‘Sixteen Americans,’ at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

From the 1960s onward, Stella embarked on a prolific period of creativity, producing series after series of unprecedented paintings. He experimented with shaped canvases – creating the Aluminum Paintings (1960), Irregular Polygon canvases (1965-67) and the Protractor series (1967-71), as well as expanding his initial monochrome palette to bright colors. Later, he incorporated sculptural relief into his work, calling himself a ‘maximalist’ painter, before creating large-scale freestanding sculptures, architectural structures, and complexly rendered prints.


Stella’s work was included in several important exhibitions that defined 1960s art, among them the Guggenheim Museum’s ‘The Shaped Canvas’ (1965) and ‘Systemic Painting’ (1966). In 1970, the Museum of Modern Art, New York presented a retrospective of Stella’s work, making him the youngest artist ever to be recognized in this way. Today his work is held in museum collections around the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Menil Collection, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Pompidou Center, Paris, and the Tate Gallery, London.


Frank Stella lives and works in New York City.