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John Stephan, The Tiger's Eye
The American painter John Stephan was brought up in Chicago where he attended the University of Illinois along with studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. These works mark the culmination of an unwavering, lifelong commitment to art and make an indisputably significant contribution to American painting of the twentieth century.



NEW YORK, NY.- The American painter John Stephan was brought up in Chicago where he attended the University of Illinois along with studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. During the Depression he worked for the Work Progress Administration or WPA, creating many mosaics and designs for numerous buildings in Chicago and the surrounding areas. After the war he married the poet Ruth Walgreen, the Walgreen drug store heiress and moved to New York City where he became an early member of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Settling in New York during the 1940’s enabled John and Ruth to become acquainted with the entire first-generation of Abstract Expressionists. He had close relationships with Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman from the 1940’s onward developing a lifelong friendship with Still. Stephan was also represented by the Betty Parsons Gallery where he exhibited along with his contemporaries such as Still, Rothko, Newman, Kelly, Rauschenberg and Johns.

In 1947 the Stephan’s created a widely read ground-breaking magazine of art and literature titled “The Tiger’s Eye” which was published in nine quarterly issues from 1947 to 1949. The magazine showcased European and American artists and writers defining the Post War era including Picasso, Brancusi, Giacometti, Gorky, Rothko, Still, Newman, Reinhardt, along with many others. In January 2002 Yale University Art Gallery created an exhibition and monograph titled “The Tiger’s Eye……. The Art of a Magazine” a massive undertaking which contributes to our understanding of Post War art history.



Stephan’s paintings from “The Tiger’s Eye” period are inspired by William Blake’s poem “Tyger” symbolizing faith in the power of creative vision as Stephan’s cover designs always contain the abstracted eye within his compositions. These paintings each show an oculus which presages in form as well as spirit the metaphysical striving embodied in his later disc paintings.

For the last three decades of his career Stephan dedicated himself to his disc paintings. Each work comprising of a central monotone circle delineated by multiple bans of contrasting colors surrounding the central orb emanating pulsing energy.

In Stephan’s words he states….” I see the “Circle-Disc” as being the simplest yet most subtle…. inherently perfect form as compared with which other artists using the figure, forms of nature or any other imaginable imagery for its formal validity”.



These works mark the culmination of an unwavering, lifelong commitment to art and make an indisputably significant contribution to American painting of the twentieth century.

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