Walter Hollis Stevens, known as Holly to his friends, was a member of the Knoxville Seven, a group of painters who introduced Modern art to east Tennessee in the late 1950s-1960s. Their experimentation with modern art served as a much-needed shot-in-the-arm to the cultural life of the region.
Stevens along with fellow Knoxville Seven artist, Carl Sublett, painted abstraction based on landscape. They traveled throughout the region and were especially drawn to the Smoky Mountains. Later, they spent time painting together in Maine.
Art critic, Matthew Everett of the Knoxville Mercury described Stevens work as, “…the purest adherent of abstraction among the Knoxville Seven, but even he took inspiration from landscapes and architectural design. As his work developed, his interlocking slashes of color and shape became more ethereal and soft, but he maintained a distinctive compositional style.”
Stevens earned his MFA from the University of Illinois in 1955 and began teaching by 1957 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where he remained until his death in 1980.