Imogen Stuart is one of Ireland’s foremost sculptors. Her prodigious work in a variety of media has attracted international attention and critical acclaim over a career that spans more than seven decades.
Imogen was born in 1927 and raised in Berlin. She was the elder daughter of Bruno E. Werner, Germany’s leading art critic of the Thirties and it was her father who asked the famous German expressionist sculptor, Professor Otto Hitzberger, to take his daughter as a pupil after the War.
In 1948 Imogen met Ian Stuart while both studied under Hitzberger’s tutelage. The couple returned to Ireland and married, had three daughters and separated in 1970. Imogen’s discovery of Ireland began in the miraculous and mysterious landscapes of Glendalough. Her observances of Irish nationalism, music and all the Irish saints and scholars formed a rich medley that continues to inspire her work.
Her expressive work trail-blazed ecclesiastical statuary in the 1950s and continues to stand apart with her unique and instantly recognisable style. Her playful, tender depictions of biblical and mythical stories respect epic narrative but also penetrate and expose the universality of nature in all its guises.
Significant church commissions spread Imogen’s work across Ireland. Other major commissions took her sculptures to public spaces, government buildings, private collections and overseas. Not long ago, Imogen’s Pangur Bán, a hand-carved twelve-foot-high pitch pine sculpture, found its permanent home in the Áras an Uachtaráin. The National Gallery recently obtained her largest self-portrait carving for all to enjoy. Most recently, Imogen’s community of Sandycove/Glasthule raised the money to purchase and erect her 12′ high granite Stele in a park just a few hundred meters from Imogen’s home. To say Imogen is well loved is an understatement.
Imogen was elected Saoi of Aosdana in 2015 in a ceremony presided over by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, joining previous Saoithe Samuel Beckett, Louis LeBrocquy, Brian Friel, Sean O Faolain, Patrick Collins and Mary Lavin in the distinction. Imogen has received a great many art awards, is an active member of Aosdána, and the RHA. She was elected by the RHA as professor of sculpture in 2000. Imogen received honorary doctorate degrees from Trinity College (2002), UCD (2004) and NUI Maynooth (2005). In 2010, the President of Ireland Mary McAleese presented Imogen with the McAuley Medal, a recognition of her long-standing relationship with Mary Immaculate College and a lifetime contribution to the arts in Ireland. In presenting Imogen the award, President McAleese paid tribute to her “genius”, crafting “a canon of work that synthesises our complex past, present images and possible futures…as an intrinsic part of the narrative of modern Irish art, of Ireland.” In 2018 Imogen was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation.
Imogen’s sculptures may be seen across Ireland in both church and market square, in rarefied academic settings, in solo and group exhibitions and in private collections. Recently turned 95, Imogen continues to work from her studio in County Dublin, and is currently engaged in the production of commissions and large-scale personal projects.