Provenance: The Artist’s family
Exhibited: Drian Gallery Stephenson, september 1960, cat.nr. 13
A skilled musician himself throughout his life, Stephenson’ sought to find visual equivalents for musical forms. This work formed part of his first one-man exhibition at the Drian Galleries in 1960, where all the pictures were given musical titles.
Commenting on the 1960 Drian Gallery Exhibition, which was comprised of 22 works by Stephenson from the late 1950s, Herbert Read spoke of the freshness and vitality’ of these later works noting that the vicissitudes of the art world are such that it is possible for an artist of great talent to work for a lifetime in obscurity, and only towards the end of his career find the recognition that is due to him’.
Stephenson made his first abstract paintings around 1932. In 1934 he exhibited with the 7 & 5 Society, along with Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Ivon Hitchens, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and John Piper. Though not today as well known as many of his contemporaries he was one of the key figures in the development of abstract art in Britain. Indeed Herbert Reed noted that Stephenson ‘was one of the earliest artists in this country to develop a completely abstract style’ and credited him with being the father figure of the ‘gentle nest of artists’ (Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore) who occupied the Mall Studio’s in Hampstead. At the beginning of WW2 Calder and Mondrian counted amongst his friends and were frequent visitors to The Mall Studios.
Piet Mondrian photographed in a Hampstead garden by John Cecil Stephenson 1939
Estate of John Cecil Stephenson/Tate Archive