Stella Steyn (1907 - 1987)
Stella Steyn was born in Dublin in 1907, her father, William Steyn, had moved to Limerick in the 1870's and her mother, Bertha Jaffe, had also moved to Ireland from Berlin. They married in Limerick in 1890 and subsequently moved to Dublin, where her father ran a successful dental practice. Stella Steyn was educated at Alexandra College Dublin, and then enrolled in the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where she studied from 1924 to 1926. One of her tutors during her time at art college, was the well-known portrait and figure painter Patrick Tuohy, who introduced her to the work of French artists, in particular Cezanne. In 1926, encouraged by Tuohy, she left Ireland to pursue her studies in Paris, at the Académie Scandinave and at La Grande Chaumière. In this way she followed the lead of two or Ireland's foremost modern artists, Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone, who had both studied in the studios of modernist painters in Paris in the early 1920's. Speaking of this period she later remarked that ‘painters like Utrillo, Modigliani, Soutine and Pascin were still working, or had very recently worked in Paris, and were to be seen in the galleries’ During this time in Paris, she met Samuel Beckett, and also James Joyce, who asked her to illustrate "Finnegan's Wake". Stella Steyn established her reputation as a progressive artist in Dublin, with nineteen of her paintings, chosen for exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy, annual exhibitions, between 1927 and 1930. She also exhibited at the New English Art Club in London and in 1929, she was part of an exhibition or contemporary Irish art at the Helen Hackett Gallery in New York, the first of its kind in America. In 1931 she enrolled in the famous Bauhaus School of Art in Germany, the only Irish artist, known to have studied there. While a student there, she was taught by major European atists, such as Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Joseph Albers. In the 1950's Stella Steyn exhibited extensively in London, with a solo exhibition at the Leicester Gallery in 1951, and a joint exhibition with well known British artist, Ivon Hitchens in 1954. She also exhibited at the Royal Academy annual exhibitions in London from 1952 to 1959. Stella Steyn's paintings are characterised by her expressive, brushstrokes and vibrant colour palette, reminiscent of the Fauvists. The influence of French art, in particular, Cezanne, is apparent in her still life paintings, with their simplified forms.