Stephenson was one of the leading modernist artists working in Britain between the wars. Born in County Durham, he studied at Leeds College of Art, then the Royal College of Art and the Slade in London. After the First World War he moved into a studio at The Mall, in Hampstead, London. This little lane would become the focal point of British Modernism in the 1930s: Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore all moved there. Stephenson became involved with this avant-garde group in the 1930s and during this period produced much of his best work. Following World War II, he adopted a more figurative style, but by 1951 he was again exploring abstraction, this time on a large scale. He was head of the Architectural department of Northern Polytechnic from 1922-55.