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Lot 710: Irma Stern Composition

South African Art & Furniture, Decorative Arts & Jewellery

by Strauss & Co

October 21, 2013

Cape Town, South Africa

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Description: Irma Stern
Composition
signed and dated 1923
oil on canvas
139 by 95,5cm

Provenance: Die Kunskamer

Exhibited: Irma Stern Museum, 1994

Literature: Catalogue. (2003) Irma Stern: Expressions of a Journey, Johannesburg: Standard Bank Gallery. Illustrated in colour on page 100.Dubow, Neville. (ed.) (1991) Paradise: The Journal and Letters (1917-1933) of Irma Stern. Diep River: Chameleon Press. lllustrated on page 88, captioned:'the nubile girls, flowers and fruit in this work were to become key elements in Irma Stern's emerging style'.Arnold, Marion. (1995) Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye. Vlaeberg: Fernwood Press. Page 49, illustrated in colour on page 56:'Throughout the twenties Stern's work was experimental. She began to locate African subjects ... but also sought ways of expressing her responses to the world through a visual language which satisfied her own complex temperament. Two main approaches to painting can be identified: she worked from the subject - models, landscape, still life - translating sense perceptions and emotion into colour and mark, and she worked from her imagination, responding to the image emerging under her brush. The difference in approach is clearly demonstrated in two works from 1923, Still Life with Books ... and Composition ...In contrast to the still life, Composition is not based on observation. It is literally a composition, an exercise in organizing forms and colours in a decorative manner. A contrived arrangement of shapes, the painting shows the young artist trying to transfer local subject matter - brown bodies and proteas - to the bathers theme. The frank eroticism of the female bodies is diffused by the bright, jarring colour. In its self-consciousness the painting is typically Modernist. It has elements of German Expressionism in the shape stylization and overtones of Cubism in the faceted organization of planes. Moreover, it shows the influence that Pechstein continued to exert over Stern. Indeed his influence was significant in this period - despite the fact that Stern was in South Africa - for she acquired Osborn's monograph on Pechstein, published in 1922. Reproductions of works and Osborn's interpretation of Pechstein's pursuit of primitivism stimulated her own quest for exotic subject matter and modern style, enabling her to forge her identity as South Africa's most significant pioneer Modernist painter.'

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