Remembering Frank Stella

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Frank Stella earlier this month. One of the most impactful and innovative artists of our time, Frank Stella (1936–2024) consistently challenged the boundaries of painting and the potential of abstraction. While there is an undeniable thread of logic running from one body of work to the next, the steadfast and dramatic evolution of his art from early disciplined minimalist paintings to the later dynamic, baroque—even explosive—compositions attest to the artist’s extraordinary expansiveness. As the late art historian Bill Agee wrote, Stella offered “one surprise after another that [has] always pointed to new directions and possibilities.”

The Addison is fortunate to have had a long and meaningful relationship with Stella, as an alum (PA 1954), exhibiting artist, artist-in-residence, donor, and board member. The Addison’s collection includes 106 objects (paintings, sculpture, prints, and works on paper) by Stella.

Stella’s experience at Phillips Academy was crucial to his formation as an artist. Under the guidance of faculty members Patrick Morgan and Gordon (Diz) Bensley, Stella took art classes in the basement of the Addison and found great inspiration from the collections in its galleries. Stella would note in 1982 that the art program at Phillips Academy “would never have been the same without the Addison Gallery…Art education must be a felt presence; you must observe real things. It just doesn’t work to see everything secondhand, through slides and photographs.”

Frank Stella at the opening of 'Frank Stella Prints' at the Addison, 2017. Photo by John Kennard

As he later recalled, “If a young person walks through a gallery of American painting in the 1950s and confronts the work of Copley, Inness, Sargent, Eakins, Remington, Homer, Dove, Hartley, Hofmann, Pollock, and Kline he will want to paint like Hofmann, Pollock, and Kline, admiring Hartley and Dove for the proximity to the former, and acknowledging the rest for their accomplishment and effort in facing the task of art. Looking at what happened and is happening, one has to want to do what is happening. Immediate sources count for a lot.” 

Decades later, Stella was instrumental in enhancing the museum’s holdings of contemporary art and ensuring that future students would be able to engage with the art of their time as well as that of the past. His magnanimous and transformative gift of works by artists such as Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Ad Reinhardt, Kenneth Noland, Agnes Martin, John Chamberlain, and Stella himself remain important sources of inspiration to students and visitors today. 

Frank Stella talks with Phillips Academy students at the Addison opening of 'Frank Stella Prints,' 2017. Photo by John Kennard
Frank Stella, East Broadway, 1958, oil on canvas, 85 1/4 x 81 inches, gift of the artist (PA 1954), 1980.14

Cover image: The Gifts of Frank Stella installation view, 2017

Addison Artist Council logo

Bartlett H. Hayes Prize Recipients


Reggie Burrows Hodges

Exhibition | Residency | Publication | Acquisition


Tommy Kha

Exhibition | Residency | Publication | Acquisition