Skibbereen filmmaker pays tribute to ‘extraordinary’ Imogen Stuart

April 2nd, 2024 1:30 PM

By Martin Claffey

Imogen Stuart and her husband Ian, were the artists behind the iconic St Brendan the Navigator statue in Bantry. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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THE producer of a documentary on Imogen Stuart has paid tribute to the sculptor, saying she will leave a lasting legacy across Ireland.

Stuart died on Sunday at the age of 96. Born Imogen Werner in the heady days of pre-war Berlin, the artist met Ian Stuart while studying sculpture in Bavaria, and they married in 1949, raising a family in Co Wicklow.

Imogen created artworks across Ireland, including the famous altar and font at the Honan Chapel in UCC, and her statute created with Ian of St Brendan the Navigator in Bantry’s Town Square.

Skibbereen filmmaker Adrian McCarthy’s production company Curious Dog Films worked with her grandson director Emile Dinneen on the TV documentary Imogen From The Heart which was shown on RTÉ1 in December.

‘In some ways I was fascinated as much by the story of her life as by her work. She was an extraordinary woman,’ said Adrian.

‘The last time I saw here was with the family to watch the screening in December.

‘Physically she was struggling a bit, she was using a wheelchair. I was surprised how she had deteriorated in a few months. But her brain was still 100% there.’

Adrian said she remained warm and down to earth. ‘Sometimes artists can have notions about their art. She had no notions.

‘She leaves a great legacy. Her work is in towns all over the country, sometimes hidden in churches. Sometimes when someone dies it serves as a kind of wake-up call to that person’s art. I hope that happens here.’

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were friends of Imogen, and said she made a singular contribution to ‘the enrichment of the lives of so many throughout Irish society, not only through her inspiring and challenging work, but by her committed vision of art as an essential public good, something that must for that very reason be accessible and available to the public.

‘Imogen’s practical commitment to the importance of the cultural space was a broad, inclusive and magnanimous one. For her, the shared places that make up the daily lives of our citizens were its central location.

‘Thus, presentation of her distinctive artwork was never confined to galleries and other separated spaces, but it can be found in churches, schools, hospitals and shopping centres to be enjoyed by all.’

A senior member of Aosdána, Imogen had been living in Sandycove, Dublin, for many years.

She is survived by two of her daughters, Aoibheann and Aisling (Imogen’s daughter Siobhán died in a car crash in 1988) her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Her funeral mass takes place next Wednesday April 3rd at St Joseph’s Church, Glasthule, and she will be cremated next Thursday.

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