Master Artist VI: Stephen De Staebler, a Thirty-Year Survey (1973-2003)

Nov 12 - Dec 14, 2003

The Hearst Art Gallery of Saint Mary’s College is pleased to announce the sixth in a series of exhibitions that examine the work of some of the West Coast’s most profoundly influential artists. This year’s recipient is clay and bronze sculptor Stephen De Staebler.

Begun in 1990, the Master Artist Tribute series is designed to showcase artists whose significance as teachers of art is nearly as profound as their estimable bodies of work. Past recipients have been Wayne Thiebaud, Nathan Oliveira, Manuel Neri, Ruth Bernhard, and Frank Lobdell.


Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated color catalogue, with an introduction by George W. Neubert, director of the San Antonio Museum of Art, who organized the artist’s first exhibition at the Oakland Museum in 1974. Neubert is also the former curator of the Oakland Museum. The catalogue text is comprised of excerpts from essays about the artist written by Doug Adams, Dore Ashton, Ramsay Bell Breslin, Donald Kuspit, Franklin Parrasch, and Peter Selz.


Widely recognized for his innovations in the medium of clay, De Staebler has simultaneously created a significant body of work in bronze, exploring the expressive power of the human figure. The subject of numerous exhibitions, books, articles, and catalogues over the past 30 years, De Staebler received a B.A. degree from Princeton and an M.A. degree from the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied sculpture with Peter Voulkos. His many honors have been included Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. De Staebler had a long and distinguished teaching career at San Francisco State University; taught at San Francisco Art Institute in the 1960s and is a frequent guest lecturer and visiting artist at universities and art schools across the United States.


Among the artist’s highly acclaimed public commissions are the 1967 interior altar structures and crucifix for the Newman Center in Berkeley, "one of the few successful ecclesiastical art works of the period," according to art historian Peter Selz, the 1969 Farnsworth Memorial Sculpture for the Oakland Museum, the 1972 wall water sculpture, the 1976 Wall Canyon for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, 1985 Man With Flame for the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and Three Figures commissioned in 1993 for the Oakland City Center.


Along with Voulkos, De Staebler cites Willem de Kooning among his early influences. Critics have also linked him to three other modern masters of figurative sculpture: Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, and Alberto Giacometti.


His clay and bronze sculptures are at the same time ancient and modern, myth and history. "We are all wounded survivors, alive, but devastated selves, fragmented, isolated -- the condition of modern man," according to De Staebler, "Art tries to restructure reality so that we can live with the suffering." The work of this master artist gives us continuity with the human past, and gives us hope for the future.

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Contact: Heidi Donner (925) 631-4069 or