Stuart was born to the renowned German art critic and author Bruno E. Werner, and grew up in wartime Berlin. She took up drawing and sculpting at a young age, encouraged by her father who had played an important role in providing a forum for Bauhaus artists through his cultural magazine Die Neue Linie. She knew little of her Jewish origins until after the war.
In 1945 Stuart began studying under Otto Hitzberger, who taught her modelling, carving, and relief work using different materials. She met her future husband, the Irishman Ian Stuart grandson of Maud Gonne- who was also studying under Hitzberger- in 1948, and in 1949 the two went to Ireland together. The young sculptor, though born a Lutheran, became interested in Irish religious heritage and converted to Roman Catholicism. She married Ian in 1951 and took up residence in Laragh Castle near Glendalough. In their twenty-one years of marriage the Stuarts had three daughters: Aoibheann, Siobhan and Aisling.
Stuart works in wood, bronze, stone, steel, clay and terracotta. As the most prolific sculptor for the Church in Ireland her works can be seen in chapels and churches across the country, both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland. Her best-known works are probably the monumental Pope John Paul II in St. Patrick's College, Maynooth and the carved altar in the University College Cork chapel. Nevertheless, her work extends well beyond the Church, including a commissioned bust of ex-President Mary Robinson which sits in Áras an Uachtaráin (the presidential residence in Dublin), the Flame Of Human Dignity at the Centre Culturel Irelandais, Paris; collections of silver, gold and bronze jewellery, drawings, monumental works in wood, stone, concrete, bronze and other media.
"Within the sharply defined limits of material, subject, space, size and money given, I learned to develop within myself a great freedom of expression. My life is full of gifts or minor miracles. I never intellectualize – the eyes and senses dictate my hands directly. Once the work has been completed a symbolism becomes so obviously and profoundly evident that I have to regard it as supernatural.” - Imogen Stuart (Notes On The Life Of A Sculptor, Milltown Studies 22 (1988) 92-94.
Major stone works: Grave of President Erskine Childers, granite, 1979, Derralossary, County Wicklow; Arch of Peace, granite, 1989, Market Square, Cavan; Grave of Iseult (Gonne) Stuart, and Siobhan Stuart, granite, 1989, Glendalough; Fountain Wall (18 reliefs), limestone, 1991, Knock, County Mayo; Standing Stone, granite, 2001, Church of Ireland Training College, Rathmines; Flame of Human Dignity, limestone, 2005, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Standing Stones, granite, 2006, St. Francis, Raheny Hospice, Dublin
Sculptures Wood: Stations of the Cross, wood, 1957, Curragh Camp Church, County Kildare; Stations of the Cross, teak, 1981-2, Firhouse, County Dublin; Penal Cross, wood, 1988, St. Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg, County Donegal. Metal: Main Doors and Reliefs, 1963-4, Galway Cathedral, Galway; Wall Sculptures, Doors, Beaten Copper, 1969, Church of St. Michael, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin; Madonna Fountain, sheet copper, 1969, Dublin Airport Church, County Dublin; Pope John Paul II, bronze, 1986, Maynooth Library, County Meath; Madonna, bronze, 1991, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin; Angel, bronze, 2008, St Theresa’s Carmelite Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin. Reliefs: Yehudi Menuhin, bronze, 1998. Portrait busts: Sean McBride, bronze, 1990, Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin; President Mary Robinson, bronze, 1998, Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin. Church interiors: Altar, oak, Muckross Church, County Kerry 1958; Altar, oak, 1986, Honan Chapel, University College, Cork; Altar, travertine, 1989, Belvedere College, Dublin.
A book on her work and life was published in 2002 (Imogen Stuart, Four Courts Press), with an introduction by Brian Fallon and a personal tribute by Peter Harbison.
In 2019 she is still producing new work, and her official website features select works spanning a career over 7 decades.
Mary Immaculate College
The Sisters of Mercy commissioned three major pieces from Stuart in 1958. Since then further pieces have been added to the College collection where 15 pieces of Imogen's artwork are on display.
Awards and Accolades
In recognition of her influential role in the cultural and artistic life of Ireland and her prodigous output as an artist, she was awarded the Mary McAuley medal in 2010 by President Mary McAleese who paid tribute to her "genius", crafting "a canon of work that synthesises our complex past, present images and possible futures...as an intrinsic part of the narrative of modern Irish art, of Ireland.”
A professor of sculpture at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, she is also a member of Aosdána, and has received honorary doctorates from Trinity College Dublin (2002), University College Dublin (2004), NUI Maynooth (2005).
She was elected Saoi of Aosdana on 15 September 2015 in a ceremony presided over by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, joining previous Saoithe Samuel Beckett, Louis LeBrocquy, Brian Friel, Sean O Faolain, Patrick Collins and Mary Lavin in the distinction.
In November 2018 she was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation.
- Interview with Miriam O'Callaghan, Miriam Meets, RTÉ Radio 1, 20 May 2012
- Official website
- Aosdána biographical note
- Imogen Stuart Sculptor, Four Courts Press 2002
- Works by Imogen Stuart at Mary Immaculate College
- Imogen Stuart in the Irish Arts Review
- Imogen Stuart Calendar MIC 2019
- St. Stephen's Church, Killiney, Co. Dublin- Imogen Stuart: Artist in Residence
- Stations of the Cross, Ballintubber Abbey, Co. Mayo
- Work in Carpark, Killiney, Co. Dublin