Traces along the Wild Atlantic Way Imogen Stuart, sculptor

In Principio (at the back) and Ladders (right), Imogen Stuart at Mary Immaculate College.
In Principio (at the back) and Ladders (right), Imogen Stuart at Mary Immaculate College. | Photo (Detail): Goethe-Institut Irland

Most Irish people may not know her name but almost all know at least one of her sculptures. The work of the German-born Imogen Stuart is everywhere – in churches, shopping centres and public buildings.

Imogen Stuart was born in Berlin in 1927, into a family devoted to art: her father Bruno Werner was a renowned art critic and her mother had studied art history. She herself studied with the sculptor Otto Hitzberger in Bavaria. She met Ian Stuart, son of the Irish novelist Francis Stuart and himself a sculptor. When she married him in 1951, she moved to County Wicklow. She was struck by the relative absence of a visual culture in Ireland. She was also fortunate, however, in that Catholic churches were beginning to commission more ambitious work.

Stuart’s work, with its deep attraction to Christian spirituality, its deceptive simplicity, and its way of being both devotional and modern, fit the bill. She combines eclectic influences – Romanesque and Gothic carvings, German Expressionism and old Irish manuscripts and metalwork – into an organic and fluid style of her own. Over sixty years, it has become an Irish style, written beautifully into the country’s built environment.

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Mary Immaculate College
University of Limerick
South Circular Road
Limerick
Ireland