Stephen Scott Young
(B. 1957 )
In 1985, Florida artist Stephen Scott Young won first prize in watercolor in American Artist's national art competition. Since then his career has flourished and his paintings have met with critical acclaim.
People compare Young with artists of the past, such as Winslow Homer. That comparison is accurate, but Young's primary influences go back even further, to the Old Masters. The first two artists who captivated him were Vermeer and Caravaggio; when he first started painting he was given picture books about their work.
After graduating from high school, Young studied for three years at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida, where he concentrated on printmaking. He began working with watercolor as early as 1976, but his mature style emerged in the mid-1980s. From that point his work has developed surprisingly smoothly, toward ever-increasing depth of space and ever-greater facility in handling the human figure.
His paintings show that he has looked closely at the watercolors of both Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins, the two greatest American realists of the 19th century. Young's subject matter is to that of Homer, who also visited the Bahamas and made paintings of black models, In fact, a few of Young's paintings are a virtual recreation of Homer's compositions.
For his sense of dramatic design and luminous, clear color, Young perhaps owes most to Homer. His execution, however, is essentially different and is influenced more by Eakins, who built up his watercolors in a more constructed fashion with careful stippling. Eakins taught him, as it were, to draw with watercolor. Young owes his careful accuracy and his ability to create figures that are not simply flat but have volume and weight to Eakins.
A virtuoso realist in the classic tradition, Stephen Scott Young remains an anomaly on the modern scene. Major collectors avidly seek his watercolors, but for the most part they are enthusiasts of 19th-century painting who hang his works beside those of the great realists of that century, such as Homer and Eakins. It is impressive, of course, that Young's paintings can survive this stern test and hold up with the best painting of the American past. In some ways, however, this classic character of Scott's work has led critics to miss its present-day relevance.
Young's paintings are not simply nostalgic but address the concerns of contemporary life. Visually, they possess an indisputably modern abstract power of design. Thematically, they deal with issues of race and human dignity that are particularly troubling and pertinent to the current American social condition.