Stephen McKenna, 1939–2017

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our friend and colleague
Stephen McKenna. Stephen passed away at his home in County Carlow on 4 May 2017.


Born in London in 1939, McKenna studied at the Slade School of Art during the 1960s. Rather than conforming to the era’s dominant trends of pop art and conceptualism, he defied expectation by turning instead to figurative painting – unfashionable in London at that time – and began to develop a unique painterly practice informed by diverse art historical precedents.


McKenna moved to Germany in 1971, where he found “a more complex attitude to painting”, and went on to live and work in numerous European countries throughout his life, before settling in County Carlow, Ireland in the late 1990s. The impact of this extensive continental travel is evident in McKenna’s painting, not only in its subject matter – though European cityscapes and landscapes are frequently represented – but in the lyricism of his approach, artfully fusing classical and romantic painting traditions.


McKenna presented us with sophisticated explorations of still life, the interior, the landscape and the seascape, rendering these scenes with great attention to the atmospheric conditions of light, air, space and water. He drew on the hard-won skills and knowledge of the history of painting to create contemporary works that intrigue and question, and have the wherewithal to stand the test of time.


Stephen was a great artist and a great human being. His kindness and generosity will be missed by the many members of the Irish and international artistic community that his life and work have touched over his long and successful career.


We express our heartfelt condolences to Stephen McKenna’s family and loved ones.