Stephen Pace: Maine Master/Indiana Painter
Stephen S. Pace
Born in 1918, Stephen Pace’s life has spanned most of the 20th and into the 21st century. His childhood years were spent with his family on farms in Missouri and Indiana and gave him a sense of the importance of family and hard work. Although he loved drawing throughout his childhood, his first formal art lessons were at the age of seventeen with Robert Lahr, a WPA artist from Evansville, Indiana. During this time, Pace began working with an architect doing architectural renderings and drafting. In 1939 a peacetime draft was instituted and Pace entered the Army as World War II loomed on the horizon. Along with designing posters for the Army, his architectural background was used to design buildings in the U.S. and England during the War. After the War but before returning to the U.S., Stephen continued painting in Paris encouraged by a commanding officer who admired his work and gave him the time to paint. It was there that he met Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso.
Four years in the Army entitled him to four years of education under the GI Bill, which he used in part to study art in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he met Milton Avery, one of his strongest influences and closest friends. From there he moved to New York City where his landscapes and figurative work gave way to the abstract expressionist movement of the 1950’s. Through his friendship with Milton Avery, Stephen met artists such as Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollack and Willem deKooning and many others who studied with him at the Hans Hofmann School. Pace met and married his lifelong partner, Palmina, a NY art buyer, who devoted herself to Stephen and his work. In 1950 and 51 they traveled to Paris and Italy where Stephen continued his studies. He used the last eleven months of his GI Bill time to study at Hofmann’s schools in New York and Provincetown, MA. His large abstract expressionist paintings where exhibited in major galleries in New York City including seven Whitney Annual and Biennials.
Then in 1960 they began spending the first of twelve summers in rural Pennsylvania which made Stephen realize his need to get back to figurative painting. But their allegiance was gradually transferred to Maine where he and Pam would camp on longer vacations. In 1972 the Pace’s bought a house in Stonington, Maine, a small fishing village on Deer Isle. Summers in Maine provided abundant subject matter of beautiful land and seascapes and the working people of the village.
After spending more than fifty years between Maine and New York, Stephen and Pam returned to his boyhood home of Southern Indiana where he lives and works in a studio on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana. He and Pam donated their Maine home to the Maine College of Art along with the paintings in that house. Many other paintings have been donated to the Evansville Museum and the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, IN. There, at the age of 90, he continues his lifelong commitment to painting.