Italian-born artist Joseph Stella moved to the United States in 1896 to study medicine as his older brother had, but started taking classes at the city’s Art Student League and the New York School of Art. There, he worked under one of the leading art teachers of the time, William Merritt Chase. He would move between Europe and America several times, coming in contact with leading artists. He became known for his paintings based in Futurism and Precisionism, and his series of the Brooklyn Bridge, a perfect subject for these styles.
Stella’s painting “Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras,” 1913–14, is considered one of the best Futurist works created. It was shown at the influential 1913 Armory Show and garnered much attention, both against his modern style and in admiration for it. Stella was friends with many of NYC’s European expatriot artists, including Marcel Duchamp, and was with the Dada artist when the urinal for the infamous work “Fountain,” 1917, was purchased from a plumbing supply store. Stella would become known for his cityscapes rooted in geometry, but when he became interested in creating works other styles, he had trouble keeping his audience. He would go on to create intricate, fantastical, large works that highlighted his exquisite draftsmanship.