STEPHEN MCKENNABritish 1939 - 2017


STEPHEN MCKENNABritish 1939 - 2017

McKenna was born in London in 1939 and attended the Slade School of Art. In 1973 the artist left London and moved to Donegal, Ireland. He has primarily lived and worked in Ireland since that point, although he has also lived for short periods in Belgium, Germany and Italy (and he retains a second home in London to this day). His work is figurative and although is subjects are wide ranging; his is perhaps best known for his landscapes, interiors and still life painting. He achieved international recognition during the 1980s for his ‘neo-classical strain of painterly post-modernism’. The artistic movement was a reaction against the prevailing performance and installation art which had emerged out of art schools from the late 1960s. McKenna took traditional subject matter and reinterpreted it using layers of wit and irony. His works can be enjoyed for their traditional qualities but a strong conceptual element lies at their core. Every element is considered and has some direct personal relevance to the artist.

McKenna has exhibited internationally as has been the subject of several major museum shows. These include Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in 1983, Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf in 1986, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1993, Ca di Fra, Milan in 1999, the Douglas Hyde Gallery Dublin in 2003, the Hans Arp and Sophie Teuber Arp Foundation, Rolandseck, Germany in 2000 and the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin in 2005. McKenna participated in Documenta 7 in 1982; 'Classical Spirit' at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and 'Falls the Shadow' at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 1986; 'Avant Garde of the '80s', Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art in 1987 and 'Dreams & Traditions', at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. in 1997.

McKenna's work is represented in the collections of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Gallery, London, the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, Staedtische Sammlungen, Rheinhausen, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Netherlands and in many other collections, both private and public, world-wide. He became an associate member of the RHA in 2001 and a full member in 2002 and was the president of this association from 2005 till 2009. McKenna was shortlisted for Britain’s most prestigious art award, the Turner Prize, in 1986