Thursday, April 2, 2009
Thursday, 2 April '09: Discovering my world: Irma Stern
Blogging has become a way of appreciating my own world: its people, history, flora and fauna. Here are a few of the bold, emotionally intense paintings of Irma Stern, early South African artist (1894-1966). Above is the Cape flowerseller with proteas.
Irma Stern was born to German Jewish parents in the remote town of Schweizer-Renecke in the hot, dry North West province of South Africa where her father ran a trading store. Irma's life, however, was not confined. She and her parents travelled intermittently between Europe and South Africa.
Her parents welcomed her ambition to become a painter. She spent the years of the WWI in Germany where she studied under the Expressionist, Max Pechstein. On her return to South Africa, her art was derided and misunderstood in the conservative Cape Town of the 1920's. Reviews declared: Art of Miss Irma Stern: Ugliness as a cult.
But by the '40s Irma was an established artist. Her travels to Europe were cut short by WWII; instead Irma travelled into the interior of Africa, to Zanzibar and the Congo, where the colours of the produce at the food markets, the dress of the diverse peoples and the tropical landscapes inspired her striking paintings.
Irma's home in Rosebank, Cape Town has become the Irma Stern Museum administered by the University of Cape Town. Her studio remains unaltered and the Museum houses selected works and travelling exhibitions. Do visit on your next trip. You know, that first time ever trip to South Africa that you have been promising yourself!
Irma's comment on the creative process: "I work a long time at a picture in my head...I never touch the canvas after it is finished."