Though Joseph Stella is primarily recognized for his dynamic Futurist-inspired paintings of New York, particularly of the Brooklyn Bridge, he was also compelled to express the powerful connection he felt to the natural world, a subject he pursued persistently throughout his career. Visionary Nature presents an overdue examination of this prolific and wide-ranging body of nature-based work.
If Stella’s cityscapes became symbols of a modern era, his pictures of flowers, plants, birds and trees were rooted in another, more ancient, primal and paradisaical world. Inspired by archaic and classical precedents as well as his own brand of spirituality, these lyrical and exuberant works are also his least understood. By focusing on his unique visual vocabulary and the context in which it developed, Visionary Nature reconsiders how his nature paintings relate to his career, revealing a surprising continuity between seemingly disparate subjects and exploring how these works are reflective of Stella’s passionate spirituality. His close affiliation with the natural world shaped a body of work that ranged from vividly realistic to poetically transcendent and visionary in its unique expression.
Joseph Stella (1877–1946) was born in Italy and moved to New York City in 1896. He belonged to avant-garde circles on both sides of the Atlantic and achieved international notoriety in the 1910s for his large-scale paintings of modern America. For the remainder of his career, he traveled widely and produced a large body of nature-themed work. He died in 1946 from heart failure.