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Jack Stewart papers, 1926-2010

Biographical Note

Jack Stewart (1926-2005) was a painter, muralist, designer, educator and administrator in New York City. After developing an interest in graffiti in the 1970s, Stewart eventually wrote a dissertation on the subject, "Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway" (New York University, 1989) and was recognized as an expert on mass transit art.
Jack Stewart began studying art at the High Museum School in his hometown of Atlanta when he was 10 years old. At age 14, he began a 4 year apprenticeship with painter and sculptor Steffen Thomas. After serving in World War II, he enrolled at Yale University (B.F.A. 1951) as a sculpture student, but soon switched to the painting department where he studied with Josef Albers and Willem de Kooning. After graduation, Stewart began receiving mural commissions and enrolled in classes at Columbia University School of Architecture (1951-1953). His interest in architecture was tied to understanding how to work effectively with architects on mural projects. Later, Stewart developed an interest in graffiti which he pursued through graduate study at New York University (M.A., 1975 and Ph.D., 1989).
Stewart created murals in ceramic tile, mixed media and stained glass. In addition to mosaic murals, he designed tables with mosaic tops. As an outgrowth of his mosaic work, Stewart developed a technique for laminating stained glass onto plate glass that, by eliminating the need for lead, opened new design possibilities. Mural commissions included work for Hamilton Hotel in Chicago, Versailles Hotel in Miami Beach, Public School 28 in New York City, and several ocean liners. The most unusual mural, Raw Material commissioned by Cluett Peabody and Company, was composed of shirt labels embedded in acrylic.
Beginning in 1950 Stewart participated regularly in group shows and enjoyed solo exhibitions mainly in the New York City area. He also showed in Philadelphia, Georgia, Rhode Island, Mexico and Italy, and was included in exhibitions circulated by the American Federation of Arts.
Stewart taught at the college level for nearly thirty years, including: The New School (art and architecture, 1953-1958); Pratt Institute (interior architectural design, 1955-1960); The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (painting, drawing, human anatomy, art history, 1960-1976; Art Department Chairman, 1971-1976); International Center of Mythymna, American Division, Lesbos, Greece (summer school, 1962-1965); Columbia University (M.F.A. program instructor, 1966-1976); and New York University (drawing, 1967-1975). In 1976 he was appointed Vice President and Provost of the Rhode Island School of Design.
Stewart was active in several professional organizations. He served as New York Artists Equity Association Secretary (1986-1987) and President (1987-1989); President of the National Society of Mural Painters (1996-2000); member of the advisory board of the Steffen Thomas Museum and Archives, Buckhead, GA (1997- 2000s); and President of the Fine Arts Federation of New York (2003-2004). The National Academy of Design elected Jack Stewart an Academician in 1995.
Jack Stewart and Margot Schwarzhaupt, an artist, were married in 1947; they had one son, Brandon. Painter and arts administrator, Regina Serniak, became Jack Stewart's wife in 1976.
Jack Stewart died in New York City in 2005.