Dunedin-born artist Eion Stevens dies looking for paintings

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A Dunedin-born, renowned and increasingly withdrawn artist has died, leaving family and friends in search of a treasure trove of around 2,000 paintings tucked away in a locked city garage.

Eion Stevens recently died at his home in central Christchurch. His close friend and fellow artist Philip Trusttum fears he could lie dead for a month.

The 69-year-old studied at the Otago School of Art and in England in the 1970s and exhibited regularly across New Zealand in the 80s and 90s.

As a prolific painter, his work drew a dedicated following: his work entitled Falling boy fetched $ 14,025 in 2001 – the highest sales price ever recorded according to the Art Sales Digest in Australia and New Zealand.

But Trusttum says Stevens stopped painting about five years ago, “and that’s usually fatal for an artist”.

“He didn’t want to tell us why or explain it. He just said there was no point,” said Trusttum.

“He was very secretive, he closed himself off. He didn’t want to talk about his problems.

“When I got blocked and told him I just couldn’t paint, he suggested I find an artist in art history that I like and copy him. And I did and that got me painting saved painting since then.

“I said that too [Stevens] and he just shrugged and dismissed the question completely. “

Trusttum suspects that Stevens would have completed four to five works a week and that up to 2000 works of art could be hidden.

Now the question remains: where are they?

Stevens had vaguely mentioned a lockable garage in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch in the past.

His will has been traced back to his lawyers, and there is hope that it will shed some light on where the works of art are located.

Hundreds more paintings could be in a barn loft in Kurow, North Otago, Trusttum believes.

Well-wishers have contacted Trusttum in the past few days, and many collectors have come forward.

There are not just one or two of Stevens’ works on the walls, but five or six, up to 20.

“He worked every day – like a painter should do. He did what an artist does, he just worked, ”said Trusttum.

“He wasn’t an airport artist – he stayed home and painted. He was a fantastic painter.”


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