“Breathing my last breath, I pray I shall be above mundane desires for painkillers and can bask one last time in the fantasy that has driven me all these many years of wandering looking for the apparition of delusion—one more resurrection of the image I saw that day in Paris at the kiosk on Boulevard St. Germain in 1960.”
Harold Stevenson Jr. speaking about the place and time -the day Lord Timothy Willoughby de Eresby entered his life by chance and thus setting it on an uncharted course. Harold searched the world for another muse, another Timothy, sadly never finding what he was looking for.
Harold Stevenson Jr. (March 11, 1929 – October 21, 2018) was an American painter known for his figurative paintings of the male nude.
Stevenson was born in Idabel, Oklahoma in 1929. It was there he learned his love of art by visiting the one room library of his beloved Idabel where he read of Paris, and Davinci and dreamed dreams bigger than the small town of Idabel.
He was a self-taught artist whom opened his own studio at just the age of ten where he painted portraits of anyone who would stop by.
He attended the University of Oklahoma in 1947. He didn't fit into the ordinary daily routine of a university student. But his love of the school remained with him the rest of his life. He left school in Oklahoma setting his sights on NYC .
He arrived in New York City in 1949 where the first person he met was a then unknown Andy Warhol whom he bumped into "quite accidentally." They became lifelong friends.
As hard as he tried, he never quite became a "New Yorker."
"I just quite didn't fit into the scene. I was torn for my longing of Paris, and my love of Idabel,"
He moved to Paris officially in 1959. He had dreamed of that moment since he was a child reading "Life" magazine in Idabel's little library.
It was there as he was walking down a small Paris street holding one of his paintings under his arm where another chance encounter occurred. Gallery owner Iris Clert was sitting with a friend at an outside Paris cafe when she noticed him. Clert helped to put him on a journey of exhibiting in European galleries for over the next 20 years.
Stevenson's most well-known famous paintings were created in the 1960s, including The Eye of Lightning Billy, the famous "El Cordobes (which was exhibited on the Eiffel Tower) and The New Adam, and The Great Society, a 100 faces of Idabel.
The Eye of Lightning Billy was exhibited at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1962 as part of the touring "New Realists" Show which included Warhol.
In 1963, Stevenson's "The New Adam," was displayed at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris. It is an 8-foot by 39-foot reclining nude man. The model was young actor for most of the painting was actor Sal Mineo, but the painting was dedicated to Stevenson's lover and whom he called the love of his life- Lord Timothy Willoughby de Eresby- he was lost at sea in Corsica in 1963.
In 2005, the painting was acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
In 1968, in Paris, Stevenson exhibited "The Great Society", a collection of portraits of individuals from his hometown where each of the 100 portraits were created. Stevenson personally donated the collection in 2007 to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.
As Stevenson often said, "I was the original jet setter of Idabel. I went places my friends and neighbors only dreamed about. I lived in New York, hell Norman, was even a dream to many. I lived in Paris, visited Egypt, Italy, London, Spain, lived in Key West and the Hamptons, but you know I never really left Idabel."
His heart indeed never left Idabel, he did though consider himself a Paris citizen, especially since he had an actual phone number.
In late 2004 after the death of his longtime partner Lloyd Tugwell he returned to Idabel to a small cabin on the outskirts of town.
In his final years of his life he contributed often to "Night," magazine, he was a subject of several local shows in Oklahoma and one in Dallas.
He painted less frequently, but he enjoyed living his life back in Idabel with his family and friends.
Stevenson died on October 21, 2018 in Idabel, Oklahoma at the age of 89.