Talented sculptor known for quality of religious and secular work
Ian Stuart: got interested in woodcarving at Glenstal Priory
Ian Stuart: Born: October 5th, 1926, Died: February 8th, 2013:Ian Stuart, who has died aged 86, was once regarded as the finest Irish sculptor of his generation. His work was lauded for its precision and professional competence, while he was commended for his impeccable taste. The art historian Anne Crookshank hailed him as “the first Dublin sculptor to emerge as a ‘modern’ figure”.
Originally known as a creator of religious art, he subsequently changed direction and drew inspiration from icons and symbols of death, fertility and myth, using basic materials such as bone, stone and mangrove tree.
Examples of his early work include The Annunciation on the outside wall of the Church of the Holy Rosary, Limerick, and the copper and silver Madonna at Presentation Brothers College, Glasthule, Co Dublin.
Secular commissions include a fountain for the Irish Life building on Mespil Road, Dublin, in 1963, and The Tree of Life at Stephen’s Court which housed the former Anglo Irish Bank head office, in 1971.
He featured in the major Dublin group exhibitions, and also exhibited in New York, San Francisco and London. He twice represented Ireland at the Paris biennale, and his work is in public and private collections at home and abroad.
Born in Dublin in 1926, he was one of three children of writer Francis Stuart and his wife Iseult, daughter of Maud Gonne MacBride. He grew up in his grandmother’s home, Laragh Castle, in Glendalough, Co Wicklow.
During the Emergency, Nazi spy Hermann Görtz found shelter in the family home while Stuart senior made radio broadcasts from Berlin.
Ian Stuart became interested in woodcarving at Glenstal Priory, and later studied under Laurence Campbell at the National College of Art.
In 1948 he went to Germany to continue his studies under Otto Hitzberger in Munich and Berlin. Striking up a friendship with fellow student Imogen Werner, he and she discussed art, he sang her Irish rebel songs and soon they were inseparable.
Married in 1951, they initially lived at Laragh, with Stuart’s mother and grandmother, and later moved to Sandycove, Co Dublin. They had three children together.
Working in wood, metal and stone, they mainly lived off church commissions and their joint exhibition of religious sculpture was held at the Dawson gallery, Dublin, in 1959. Their work also was shown at the Salzburg biennale in 1962.
The marriage ended in divorce in 1971. The couple’s daughter Siobhán was killed in a car crash in 1988.