Lou Meisel

#2 — Theodoros Stamos

Stamos was the youngest of “The Irascibles”. I met him in passing in the late 50’s, and then was reintroduced to him by his studio assistant. We became close in the early 60’s. At that point, I was able to join him and some of the other artists at the Cedar Tavern, as well as in their studios. In 1963, I worked for him in his townhouse on West 83rd Street doing menial tasks such as cleaning, stretching canvas, and doing errands. I also accompanied him to his lectures and critiques at the Art Students League, where I taped most of his lectures.

Published in Life Magazine, this photo was taken in 1951; this image documents “The Irascibles”, a group of artists, who protested an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that year.

It was through Stamos’ intervention that I ended up acquiring a number of works by his students from the Art Student’s League. While he was critiquing a painting by Roy Edwards, I made the mistake of murmuring that I thought it was a really nice work.  Stamos immediately called Roy over and said, “Meisel is going to pay you $40 for that painting”. I did, and it was the first painting I ever owned.  A similar situation occurred with the Australian artist Sidney Ball, where I ended up with 12 works on paper for $12—with Stamos telling me Sidney could eat for a couple of days on that! I also bought a painting by Carlos Basq, a few by Jerome Carl (Goldstein), and most importantly several by Ralph Humphrey. I gave the Edwards to my Father, kept the Basq, some of the Balls and a Humphrey.

Theodoros Stamos

One evening in 1965, Stamos growled and said, “It’s about time you bought a Stamos!” I replied that I was making a hundred bucks a week and really couldn’t afford to. He pointed to High Snow Low Sun, Marriage Stone about 2×3 feet, which I had secretly coveted, and said I should buy it for $600 and could pay him $5 a week. So I DID!

Shortly after I had it on the brick wall of my apartment at 333 West 22nd street in Chelsea, my mother stopped by and asked about the painting. She was appalled that I had bought it for that price. A few weeks later while my mother stopped by my apartment with her art collector friends to talk about collecting, since it was apparent that it was an endeavor that I wanted to pursue.

When the couple entered my place, the woman exclaimed, “WHERE did you get that Stamos?” My mother replied, “What‘s a Stamos?”

One word led to another, and the couple asked if I could get them one. I called Stamos, and he said I should come on up with them and my parents. After an hour in his studio, they bought one for $3,000. They went to dinner with my parents, and Stamos said, “Let’s go on down to the Cedar”.  This is all I could have asked for.  Around 10PM, after a couple of beers he said, “you can stop paying me $5 a week”. I said, that I had only paid him about $50 bucks, and he retorted that the rest was paid by my commission on the painting I had sold that evening.

I have had about 300 paintings by Stamos pass through my gallery and my possession. I presently have about a dozen of the best, and High Snow Low Sun, Marriage Stone has never left its prominent position in our loft in SoHo.

Theodoros Stamos, “High Snow Low Sun, Marriage Stone”, 1961, Oil on canvas

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