From 1922 onwards he was Head of Art at The Northern Polytechnic where he taught a full range of disciplines including Life Drawing, which at the time was still very much a staple of Art School training.
Between March 1919 and November 1965, John Cecil Stephenson lived in London at No. 6 Mall Studios, off Tasker Road, Hampstead. Although better known today for his Abstract painting – Herbert Read described him one ‘as one of the earliest artists in this country to develop a completely abstract style’, he received a conventional art school training and into his early 40 was a figurative artist producing exclusively realistic still lives, landscapes and portraits.
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 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.