Lot 41 § (Modern & Post-War British Art, 30th July 2020)
JOHN CECIL STEPHENSON (1889-1965)
Portrait of Elizabeth Allison
signed and dated J C Stephenson ' 1929 (lower left), signed again, titled and dated Elizabeth Allison/J C Stephenson 1929 (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
90 x 70 cm (35 1/2 x 27 1/2 in)
Sale, Sotheby's, London, 2 October 1996, lot 40
Rosebery's, London, 11 June 2019, lot 36
In 1929, when Portrait of Elizabeth Allison was completed, Stephenson was living in Hampstead, working alongside other leading figures in British Modernism such as Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson. He was soon to start his journey as an abstract artist, for which he would be widely recognised as a pioneer of modernism, a start marked by his participation in the 7 & 5 Society’s exhibition in 1933.
The present work reveals a lesser known side of the artist, his talent for figurative art. When examining the portrait, one can only admire the capable hand which captured the sitter’s figure and imbued it with life. The elegant posture and beautifully rendered fabric of the sitter’s dress, stand out in focus against the subtle energetic background. Stephenson, like other modernists in the 30s, amongst which Victor Pasmore, turned to abstraction for his later artistic output. Early portraits such as the current lot present a rare opportunity to admire this early part of his artistic journey.
The artist's works are held in the Tate collection, amongst other musems and private collections.