Young Xhosa woman signed and dated 'Irma Stern 1941' (lower right) oil on canvas 61.5 x 61.5cm (24 3/16 x 24 3/16in).
PROVENANCE: A private collection Gifted to the current owner in 1975
"It was always Africa, in the early years, that was her primal source. Here was freedom, vibrancy, the elusive Paradise that she could touch, smell and paint. Here she could escape from her ungainly body. Here, metaphorically, she could be naked among a host of graceful strangers. For her this was more than a reflection of an idealised self; it was the confirmation of the Other within herself and the chance to define herself as an artist through it."
The restrictions of war in Europe had a profound impact on Stern, both in terms of her psyche and the career path it would draw her down. In 1937 she wrote to Richard Feldman from Florence: "...I do not know how I shall fit into African boredom again - I have re-acquired all my European habits of love for everything the best...If I think of Adderley Street I shudder. Maybe I go straight up to Zululand." Without war closing Europe to her, Stern might have spent ever-increasing amounts of time on the Continent, and would never have completed the 1940s journeys and the masterpieces they inspired.
In the early 1940s interim between her trips to Zanzibar (1939) and the Congo (1942), Stern revisited the influences of her 1920s work in Zululand, Swaziland and Pondoland, reworking the subject matter with the thicker brushwork and broader colour palette that she had developed over the 1930s.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Dubow, 'Remembering Irma: A Private View' in Irma Stern: Expressions of a Journey exhibition catalogue, (Johannesburg, 2003), p.55 M. Berman, Remembering Irma, Irma Stern: A memoir with letters, (Cape Town, 2003), p. 57