An abiding love of nature—especially as borne out in the Southern landscape—informed the life and work of painter, poet and teacher Will Henry Stevens. Born in Vevay, Indiana, Stevens enrolled at the Cincinnati Art Academy in 1901 where his teachers included Frank Duveneck and Lewis Henry Meakin. In 1904, he won a design competition sponsored by Cincinnati’s famous Rookwood Pottery and was subsequently hired as a tile designer. Two years later, Stevens undertook studies at the Art Students League in New York with William Merritt Chase and developed associations with Van Dearing Perrine and Jonas Lie in the city. His first one-man show was held at the New Gallery in 1907. Over the course of his career, Stevens’ expansive intellectual curiosity and interest in experimental art forms led him to work in varied media and innovative styles, producing both realist and abstract expressions.
In 1921, Stevens became a member of the faculty at Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans, teaching there until his retirement in 1948. He plumbed the lush Louisiana landscape for subject matter during the school year, while the summers were reserved for travels to the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Stevens was a popular teacher at several art colonies in the South, including Black Mountain, North Carolina. Throughout his career, he maintained friendships with Robert Henri, George Bellows,and other artists, and closely followed the modernist scene in New York. His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Morris Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.