b. 1929, Idabel, Oklahoma
Harold Stevenson was born in 1929 in Idabel, Oklahoma. Over the past six decades, the male figure—often nude and always sumptuously rendered—has dominated the oeuvre of the self-taught painter. Stevenson moved to New York to pursue art in 1949 and almost immediately befriended Andy Warhol. Stevenson would later become the subject of Warhol’s first film entitled Harold and would also appear in the pop artist’s video Heat (1972). In 1959, Stevenson relocated to Europe, where he resided in France and Italy and exhibited regularly in galleries for nearly twenty years. While Stevenson had developed his classical homoerotic figuration prior to his move to Europe, the artist’s most iconic works were products of the 1960s. Stevenson’s large-scale painting of the close-up of a human eye entitled Eye of Lightning Billy (1962) was included in the pivotal exhibition The New Realists (1962), which also featured artists like Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Robert Indiana, and many others. The following year, the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris exhibited The New Adam (1962), an 8-foot by 39-foot reclining nude man, a wall of flesh modeled by actor Sal Mineo and dedicated to Stevenson’s lover, Lord Timothy Willoughby. Also in 1963, the artist’s painting The Call (1963) was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual. The following year, Stevenson exhibited a 48-foot-high painting of the matador El Cordobas at the Eiffel Tower. The artist then incorporated his own hometown history into his painting when he created one hundred portraits of residents of Idabel for The Great Society (1967–68). With resolve, Stevenson adhered to his realist style and figural subject matter over the next forty years, even as representational painting phased in and out of acceptance. In the 1980s, while living in Key West, Stephenson incorporated references to Greco-Roman and Egyptian archetypes into his works. In the last decade, Stevenson has focused on sensuous paintings of the young model Christopher John. The artist lives and works in Idabel.