1907 - 1994
Born in the steel mill town of Lorain, Ohio, Stevan Dohanos was a founder of the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut and was considered an 'American Realist.' A proponent of simplicity, he has said, "A clean, strong, uncluttered image forms the basis of a good picture." One cannot discuss the illustration art of Stevan Dohanos without mentioning Norman Rockwell, as their Saturday Evening Post cover images are invariably compared. Whereas Rockwell was noted for idealizing Americans and their way of life, Dohanos, "always gloried in finding beauty in the ordinary things of life.”
Dohanos was strongly influenced by 'The Eight' (Henri, Sloan, Glackens, Shinn, Prendergast, Davies, Lawson, and Luks) and their realistic depictions saying, “the truth and quality of the art could not be long denied.” He was more true to fact than Rockwell, who tended to over indicate and exaggerate with ironic humor. The difference between the two illustrators is more obvious in their choice of subjects rather than in their techniques. Dohanos focused more on the locale of the people he portrayed rather than the people themselves, perhaps more objective than Rockwell. Rockwell described the privilege of painting for the Post as “the greatest show window in America for an illustrator. If you did a Post cover, you had arrived.” Dohanos painted over 125 Saturday Evening Post covers during the 1940’s and 50’s, illustrating scenes of American life, including baseball games, mobile homes, gas stations, children with toys or butterfly collections, barns, and of course Harley-Davidsons. Dohanos also illustrated for Esquire and other magazines and designed 46 stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.
Stevan Dohanos studied art in night school, like many other talents who could neither afford the time nor tuition at a full-time or better known institution, and later at the Cleveland School of Arts (a dance and music school more than an art school). However, it was through hands-on experience as a sign and lettering painter he was able to learn more about color, scale, composition and other basics than he did at art school. Later in his career, he did advertising commissions using still life subjects rather than lifestyle images showing people. This technique as well as his training as a sign artist is particularly apparent in his advertisements for Dunham's shoes.
Dohanos was considered the Cultural Spokesman for the Saturday Evening Post because of his clear visual images and the poignant messages of Americana they revealed. He cherished this relationship and relished the differences between his work and that of Rockwell and other Post favorites. Often times he would use images from Westport, Connecticut, and readers could catch a glimpse of their neighbors in the backgrounds of scenes depicting everyday activities. Dohanos came to represent one of the essential American magazine illustrators. His images were generally slightly humorous and optimistic; they manifested the best of American ideals and were always familiar to the reader. Stevan Dohanos was considered “The Delineator of the Heart of America.”
Stevan Dohanos’ paintings are in the collections of the Avery Memorial of Hartford, The Cleveland Museum, New Britain Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.