Cranbury resident and artist George Stave was known for his American landscape paintings, vivid impressionist colors and love for the town.
Stave passed away on Aug. 26 at the age of 88, but leaves behind a strong legacy and a powerful set of paintings. He died in his home from respiratory failure.
“He was really dedicated to his artwork completely,” said his daughter Shirin Stave-Matias, who used to pose for many of her father’s portraits growing up along with her two other sisters, Pari and Kian.
“There are artists who create art from photos. My father would create art from landscapes, still life and portraits,” Stave-Matias said. “He was finicky about the lighting and accurately aware of the light. He was a perfectionist.”
“My father was born to be an artist,” Stave-Matais said. “Art was like water, food and air for him.”
According to the Stave family, he was born July 29, 1923 in Los Angeles, CA. After growing up in Salinas, CA, he returned to Los Angeles at the age of 17 as a scholarship student at the Chouinard Art Institute.
In his early 20's Stave worked as a set painter in the art department of Paramount Studios and as a painting instructor at the Jepson Art Institute. In 1949, he moved to Paris where he studied painting at the Academie Julian.
Stave was awarded a Fulbright Act grant in 1951 for a year's study in India and then traveled throughout Southeast Asia and Japan, where he studied and collected art. In the mid 1950s he returned to New York where he was a student of the abstract expressionist painter Robert Motherwell at Hunter College.
A member of the United Scenic Artists union, he worked for most of his career as a set painter for NBC Studios and later, Lincoln Scenic Studios, in New York.
In 1958, he and his wife Mahbubeh Stave moved to Cranbury from New York City when his childhood friend suggested that he consider the town as a residence. It was a move that was as practical as it was meaningful.
“The town visually inspired him,” Stave-Matias said.
According to Mahbubeh, George would travel to nearby towns to paint, as well as foreign countries, including France, Italy and Haiti.
Mahbubeh said that it is difficult to quantify how many pieces he created during his lifetime.
“He was a very productive artist when he was young and he was not a commercial artist,” Mahbubeh said. “Therefore, we never even counted his work, but it would fill a museum.”
Mahbubeh said that her husband wanted to work up until the day of his passing, and that art was on his mind until the very end.
“My husband said, ‘It’s not that I don’t want to die, it’s just that the planet is so beautiful and that there is just so much more I want to capture,’” Mahbubeh said.