Foreword


Desmond Stephenson was born in Dublin in 1922. His parents played a part in the Rising of 1916 (live link) and the subsequent struggle for National Independence. His early years were spent in Stoneybatter and as a boy he must have looked wistfully from neighbouring heights across Dublin below him to the mountains beyond. Many times in these long youthful days he must have found himself caught up by mysterious longings, the first prompting of his artistic soul. This love for Dublin and its surroundings was to be with him to the end. He identified himself with the landscape he painted. The almost pantheistic love of nature was mingled with the passing mood. His earlier pictures of Dublin and Wicklow have all the joy of high Summer. Later in his maturing years the wind is fretting the leaves and the waters, and towards the end, the heavy foreboding colours and the weighty clouds reflect the sadness of a lost paradise. One of his last sketches shows a rainbow amid the turbulence, like the promise of a happier life. An aspect of his work so little known and represented here by one painting only was his attachment to Dublin streets. There is a pathos here, born of the survival of Georgian Dublin into a present which has never quite caught up with time.
Desmond Stephenson has taken his place in the tradition of Irish Painting. He was one of those gentle individuals who worked quietly, forever wary of fashion and empty adulation, faithful to himself and conscious of his limitations, feeling himself part of the Irish consciousness, he added what he had to give to that which makes us better people.
                                                       John F. Kelly, R.H.A.