Mel Stark, born in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, in 1903, was a student of the impressionist style of the New Hope School (Allentown, Pennsylvania), finding a mentor and lifelong friend in his teacher Walter E. Baum. Baum’s bold and painterly plein-air style had enormous impact and influence on the painting style of Stark, who carried on the New Hope tradition throughout his life.
Stark received his first training in painting at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Syracuse University (New York), and the Philadelphia Museum School (Pennsylvania) before he became Baum’s lead disciple in Allentown. In the 1930s Stark became a teacher at the Kline-Baum School as he also began to travel to the coastal town of Rockport, Massachusetts, where he rented a home every summer until his death. In Rockport, Stark studied with Anthony Theime, one of the leading painters of the Rockport School, and today Stark is most famous for his harbor boat paintings.
In 1945 Stark joined the staff at Cedar Crest College, and by the 1950s he became the director of art at Muhlenberg College, both in the Allentown area. He was a founder of the Lehigh Art Alliance, and in 1956, the year of Walter Baum’s death, Stark was elected as the director of the Allentown Art Museum. In 1962 he was given the first award for best landscape by the National Society of Painters in Casein at the National Arts Club in New York City. Stark began to winter in Florida in 1969, still maintaining his home in Pennsylvania, even after accepting a job at the Longboat Key Art Center where he continued to paint marine scenes en plein-air. Stark died in Allentown on October 28, 1987.