Dan R. Stewart (American, 1926-2013)
Dan R. Stewart was a lifelong learner and examined the world around him as both artist and architect. In his youth, he developed an affinity for the expressive nature of oil painting that sustained him through his entire life. While his ultimate goal was to become an architect, he always sought to weave a spatial or architectural association in his art. He received his architectural education at Cooper Union, University of Cincinnati (BArch) and MIT (MArch) before winning the Rome Prize in Architecture in 1955.
As a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome he explored the interconnected relationship between art and architecture and continued that tradition throughout his life. Though the award was for a one year residence, his explorations provoked such interest that he was asked to stay on for a second year. It was during his tenure at the Academy that his wanderlust found an outlet. Understanding that a major tenet of the fellowship was to explore, he and his wife, Donna, traveled extensively throughout Europe on a BMW motorcycle. It was also at the Academy that he found his stylistic approach to painting, learned to play billiards and grew to love all things Roman.
After his return to the States, Dan plied his trade as an architect, working for Eero Saarinen before joining CRS in Houston. Travel became a central preoccupation of his life and beyond Rome and Santiago, Chile, he and Donna lived in Istanbul, Cairo, Tokyo and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and very nearly Beirut, Lebanon (the 1975 civil war preempted that move). Additionally, he traveled to every continent except the Arctic and Antarctic (he really did not like cold weather very much).
While he was an avowed Modernist, he spent a lifetime visiting and ruminating over Man’s ancient creations, be they building, sanctuary, sculpture or painting. He was particularly intrigued by those generated through religious motivations. Dan marveled at the inspiration and human spirit, as well as the technological skill and inventiveness, behind the construction of these works of art and architecture. Dan Stewart was a deeply religious man, but not in the biblical sense. He visited more churches, mosques and temples than any man had a right to in his lifetime and was particularly inspired by the soaring heights of Gothic cathedrals where large expanses of glass were incorporated.
Dan loved flying and surveying earth’s features, and Man’s interventions, from above. He was equally enthralled by maps of all kinds and would mark his route as a way chronicling his explorations. It is thus no wonder that one can sense an aerial or plan expression when one looks at many of his oil and acrylic compositions.
His favorite medium was oil on canvas but he also painted with acrylics on board as a way of sketching out his ideas or when traveling overseas. He spent years designing and constructing ever more elaborate stained glass windows and lamps but he also delved into mosaics, silk screen, wood block and calligraphy.