Steyn, Stella (1907–87), artist and designer, was born 26 December 1907 in Dublin, daughter of William Steyn, dentist, and Bertha Steyn (née Jaffe). Both the Steyn and Jaffe families had moved to Limerick from Russia in the 1870s. William and Bertha married in 1890. Stella was the youngest of four children: Henry, the eldest, became a dentist, Arthur a doctor, and her sister Mabel married Michael Noyk (qv), who was solicitor to Michael Collins (qv). Stella was educated at Alexandra College, Dublin, and in 1924, aged 16, enrolled at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. She was painted by Maurice MacGonigal (qv) in 1925–6. Her teacher was Patrick Tuohy (qv) and, encouraged by him, she visited Paris in 1926. Tuohy had studied under William Orpen (qv) at the Metropolitan School of Art. From 1926 to 1931, she lived between Paris and Dublin. Tuohy furnished Steyn with a letter of introduction to James Joyce (qv), and on her first visit to Paris she met the writer and became friendly with him and his family. Joyce in particular encouraged a friendship between Steyn and his daughter Lucia, who was slightly older. On her visit to Paris in 1929, Joyce introduced Steyn's work to Sylvia Beach and asked her to illustrate some of his work. Consequently, she provided illustrations for a serialised version of Finnegans Wake which appeared in instalments, beginning in autumn 1929, in the quarterly magazine transition.
She travelled to Germany in the early 1930s and enrolled in July 1931 at the Bauhaus in Dessau. The influential architect Mies van der Rohe was then director of the Bauhaus, and Steyn counted amongst her teachers Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. She was also taught graphic design by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Joost Schmidt. Her artistic style was greatly influenced by her time at the Bauhaus, and she is thought to be the only Irish artist to have studied there. Steyn also witnessed the growth of the Nazi movement which eventually closed the Bauhaus. She married (1938) David Ross , a linguist, and moved to England on her marriage; they had no children. She neither painted nor exhibited for much of the 1940s. She commenced painting again in the 1950s. She was represented in many exhibitions up till her death and also worked in the world of advertising, producing graphic designs for many top companies. She died 21 July 1987.
Steyn presented solo exhibitions of her watercolours and etchings at the Dublin Painters’ Gallery, Dublin (December 1928); of drawings, etchings, and lithographs at St George's Gallery, Dublin (April 1930); and of paintings at the Dublin Painters’ Gallery (June 1930) and the Leicester Gallery, London (1951). She had a joint show of paintings with Ivor Hitchens at the Leicester Gallery in 1954. Her paintings were exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy (1927–30) and the Royal Academy, London (1952, 1954–9); individual works appeared in numerous London exhibitions and also in Paris, Liverpool, Bradford, and Pittsburgh.