Born in Balwyn, Victoria, Stephen studied at Melbourne Teachers College from 1945 to 47 before moving to Hobart in 1948. He worked as a freelance commercial artist and teacher before abandoning painting as a career to become a professional sculptor in 1954.
He briefly moved to England in 1954 before settling in Tasmania in 1956. Winning several scholarships enabled him to return to Rome, Florence and Prague to study. He also spent time on the Furneaux Islands in Bass Strait.
Stephen works mostly in bronze. Examples of his work can be seen in many public spaces in Tasmania. He has held solo exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth and carried out many major public commissions, the most notable being ‘Tidal Pools’ Westpac Terrace, Martin Place, Sydney 1970; ‘The Tank Stream Fountain’ Circular Quay, Sydney 1981; ‘Journeys to the Southland’ Risdon Cove, Hobart 1978; ‘Miners Siding’ Queenstown, Tasmania 1983; ‘Able Tasman Fountain’ Hobart 1988; ‘The Petrie Tableau’ King George Square, Brisbane 1989; ‘The Steppes Sculptures’ Miena, Tasmania, 1992; ‘The Holy Family’ St Judes Church, Scoresby, Melbourne, 1994; ‘Heading South’ Victoria Dock, Hobart, 1998. A large bronze whale was unveiled at Cockle Creek, near the southernmost tip of Tasmania, in January 1996.
Since 1972, all the above works have been cast at the sculptor’s foundry at Campania, Tasmania, where he lives and works.
Stephen was awarded a Member in the Order of Australia for Services to Sculpture in 1984.
Stephen visited Antarctica as a guest of the Australian Antarctic Division’s then-titled Humanities Program on two occasions, 1984–85 and 1986–87.
“My interest in Antarctica as an inspirational source for work started several years before actually visiting the frozen continent.
During 1983 and early 1984 I did a number of works entitled Antarctic Field Studies at Campania. I also developed a concept for an Antarctic Visitors Centre in Hobart, which did not proceed.
My first major Antarctic sculpture was the Antarctic Tableau commissioned by the Reserve Bank in Hobart during 1984. After completing this project I was offered a voyage on the Icebird Dec 1984 for resupply to Casey station. From this voyage I presented Ice Flow a bronze and granite sculpture to AAD headquarters.
I was subsequently offered a voyage on Nella Dan in Dec 1986 — a classic voyage in every aspect. My latest Antarctic work completed in September 2002 is Bernacchi Tribute commissioned by Jim and Margaret Bleasel.
This work is part of my ongoing acknowledgment of the significance of Antarctica in my life during the past two decades.”