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Painting II
© The Estate of John Cecil Stephenson

Reference URL

Painting II 1937

On Display Modern One

Although by a relatively unknown artist today, this painting is considered a masterpiece of British modernist painting. It shows Stephenson’s interest in modernist architecture, which was emerging in Britain at this time. The abstracted forms are bold, dynamic and uncompromising, suggesting a new and radical spirit of modernity. It was painted in 1937. This year saw the publication of the Circle manifesto and related Circle exhibition, where this painting almost certainly featured. Together these represented the most significant and radical manifestation of modernism of the time and cemented British artists’ position at the forefront of the European avant-garde.

Glossary Open

Abstract art

Art in which there is no attempt to represent anything existing in the world, particularly used of the 20th century onwards. ‘Abstraction’ refers to the process of making images that may in part derive from the visible world but which are reduced to basic formal elements.

Avant garde

Cultural practices that challenge tradition through experimentation and innovation. Originally a military term, in art it is particularly associated with the late 19th and 20th centuries.


Originally intended to be an annual publication, Circle was in reality only printed once. As an ‘International Survey of Constructive Art’, Circle aimed to show the convergence of art and science and suggested that England was emerging as the centre of international Constructive art.


A general term used to describe the various movements in art from the late 19th century to the 1960s, encompassing a broad range of styles.

Abstract art, Avant garde, Circle, Modernism


  • Acc. No. GMA 5000
  • Medium Egg tempera on canvas, laid down on board
  • Size 51 x 41 cm
  • Credit Purchased with help from the Art Fund 2008