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IRMA STERN








Week of  13-12-1999 
by Andries Loots

Irma Stern was born in 1894 in Schweizer-Reneke from German-Jewish parents and she  traveled  between Germany and South Africa from a very early age. She died in Cape Town in 1966.

In 1916 she became a member of the " November Group " in Germany and during 1918 -1919, as a member of the Neue-Sezession, became well known as an artist.  In 1933 the settled in Cape Town and also used this as her base from where she traveled extensively to Africa and Europe. It was her love for Africa that inspired her to do some of her best work. She visited  Zanzibar for the first time in 1939 and came back in 1945. Here she painted portraits of Arabs, Arab women, children and market scenes. She also collected artifacts from Africa which sometimes appear in her work. In 1942 she visited the Congo. The three journey's gave her enough material to keep her painting during the high point of her career. These African-inspired works were done with extraordinary vigor and decorative control. The Zanzibar period had it's own sensation and stimuli which was further enhanced by the frames which were made from hand-carved wooden doorframes.

In 1962 she had a very successful Retrospective Exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery ( Fine Arts ) Ltd., 18 Albemarle Street in London. This was followed up with another exhibition at the same Gallery in 1967. The exhibition comprised of  more than 200 of her paintings and even included a work, from the British Royal collection.

Her house, " The Firs " on the corner of Chapel and Cecil roads in Rosebank in Cape Town where she spent most of her time from 1928 till 1966 is now a museum housing a large collection of her work and belongings. It is well worth a visit.

" Irma Stern is widely recognized as one of South Africa's most important artists and, arguably, the country's most dynamic painter. Her qualities were recognized by German critics as long ago as the 1920's but local recognition and acceptance came more slowly. In many ways this gradual process reflects the progressive maturity of modern South African art." - Neville Dubow 

On the 8 May 2000 one of her works sold at Sotheby’s South Africa in Johannesburg for a all time record of  1.7 million rand.

Her studio in " The Firs", left intact since her death.
 
Artifacts from her personal collection displayed with her paintings.
Gouache on paper
Arab, carved Zanzibar  frame.

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