The Youngest of The Irascibles
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.
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.
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.