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Guide to the Stella Snead Photograph Collection
1972-89, undated
 PR 185

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Andrea Walton

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on April 14, 2017
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

Stella Snead was born in England in 1910 and died in New York in 2006. She was a British Surrealist painter and collage artist who fled wartime Europe to work in the United States; later becoming a photographer noted for books on India. She studied with the French abstract painter Amede Ozenfant (who opened an art school in London in 1936) and Henry Moore. The English surrealist painter Leonora Carrington was a fellow student and a close friend.

Known as a painter for fifteen years, Snead's works were said to be "amongst the most interesting of the strong Surrealist movement in England in the 1930's and 1940's." Migrating to America in 1939 at the outbreak of war against Germany, Snead lived in New York then Taos. During that period she had eleven solo exhibitions in the United States and Europe. In 1949, her work was included in the prestigious Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh. In the 1950's Snead abruptly stopped painting, later writing that the reason was depression. In 1956 she began taking photographs while traveling in the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Greenland. While living in India throughout the 1960's, she took photographs of street life, nature and Hindu sculpture. In the 1960's and 70's, Snead created collages from cut-up pieces of her own photographs. In the late 1980's, after a hiatus of more than three decades, she began painting again, making copies from photographs of old paintings that had been lost or stolen. Recognition returned towards the end of her life. In 2006, a painting from the 1940's was included in "Surrealism USA," a major survey of American Surrealists at the National Academy Museum in New York.

Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the International Center of Photography and Harvard University Archive. Among the galleries she exhibited in were the Institute of contemporary Art and Kodak House, London; Lincoln Center, Donnell Library, CFM Gallery and Pavel Zoubouk Gallery; New York City; Gallery Chemould, Bombay. She published eight books of photography including Shiva's Pigeons: An Experience of India (Alfred A. Knopf, 1972);  Animals in Four Worlds: Sculptures from India (University of Chicago Press, 1989);   Drowning Can be Fun? A Nonsense Book (Pont la Vue Press, 1992);  Beach Patterns (Clarkson Potter, 1975);  Children of India (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, NY, 1965);   The Talkative Beasts (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1971);  Seven Seven (Folder Editions, NY, 1965);   Ruins in Jungles (Hamish Hamilton, London, 1962).