Modernist masterpiece for Scotland

A grant of £10,000 from The Art Fund has enabled the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art to acquire a key example of British Modernist Art worth £32,500. 'Painting II' by John Cecil Stephenson is the 450th work of art that The Art Fund has helped the gallery to acquire, with grants totalling over £1,200,000.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “This daring painting captures the utopian, modernist spirit that briefly animated British art in the 1930s, and put London on the international scene. I’m delighted it will now join ‘Wave’ by Barbara Hepworth, Stephenson’s neighbour, which was also acquired with a grant from The Art Fund for Scotland’s outstanding Modernist collection.”

John Cecil Stephenson was one of the most celebrated and committed Modernist artists working in 1930s Britain, during an exciting and brief art historical window when British artists occupied centre stage in the European Modernist Movement. The Modernist collection at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is the ideal context for ‘Painting II’, and will make it one of only two examples of Stephenson’s work currently in a public collection in the UK.

Stephenson came from a working class background in County Durham, and he went on to win a scholarship to Leeds College of Art before studying at the highly respected Slade School of Fine Art in London. He completed ‘Painting II’ at his studio on Parkhill Road in Hampstead, which is now recognised as the crucible of 1930s British Modernism, where other celebrated artists including Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Paul Nash also lived.

British Modernist artists were influenced by the continental Constructivist, Purist, Bauhaus and abstract movements of the 1930s, when they composed their paintings from completely abstract forms, compared to the abstract art of the 1920s which had its origins in nature. Stephenson’s Painting II exemplifies these latter developments in abstract art, and its complex grid-like structure and bold blocks of colour reflect a confidence in the modern, machine age, and signal a complete rejection of the traditional styles of painting which dominated British art at the time.


Notes to editors:
1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

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