no image
Lot 23*
Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966) 'Banana Carrier, Lake Kivu'
Sold for £229,166 (US$ 358,600) inc. premium

Lot Details
Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966)
'Banana Carrier, Lake Kivu'
signed and dated 'Irma Stern / 1946' (lower left); inscribed 'Banana Carrier' (to stretcher verso); further signed and inscribed 'Irma Stern / The Firs Chapel Rd / Rose Bank / Cape Town / South Afrika' (verso)
oil on canvas
51.5 x 51.5cm (20 1/4 x 20 1/4in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Acquired directly from the artist, circa 1950
    Thence by descent to the current owner


    Irma Stern's visual fascination for the image of African women as bearers, as caryatid figures, occurs frequently in her work, spanning her full career from the 1920s to the 1960s. The responsibility to provide, bear and support, borne by these women traditionally, inspired Irma to create images of effortless grace and elegance which form a number of her most arresting works. We, as viewers, are drawn into the rapport which the artist so obviously established with her subject. This uncanny relationship with her sitters is evident in most of Stern's portrait studies and is not confined to her African subject matter. It is like the skill possessed by a grand photographer, whose pact with his subject is conclusive and victorious.

    These graceful providers have been depicted carrying firewood, poultry, water vessels and fruit. In this instance a branch of green bananas hoisted at a jaunty diagonal conveys an aura of optimism and triumph. The spotted head
    scarf, the generous earrings and the sparkling white and navy blue shawl glimpsed at the base of the picture, all add up to this convivial ambience. We question whether this was a successful visit to or from the market? Was she walking past the lonely house the artist was renting as a studio, on this, her second visit to the Congo in 1946. This visit was fraught with unhappiness, quite unlike the first visit in 1942 which was lyrically described by the artist in her Congo journal published in 1943. Challenging situations of all kinds appear to have been heroically overcome by the intense excitement of the experience.

    Four years later things were different; the artist's emotional state combined with her perceptions of the social conditions prevailing in the Congo at the time, created a sense of melancholy. From the Kisenyi Guest house, Lake Kivu on 9th June 1946 Stern writes to her friends Richard and Freda Feldman in Johannesburg: 'All would be well – if I could only feel free and happy. The Congo this time has a creeping horror for me.' There are further details in this
    letter referring to discomfort of various kinds but then a sure triumph over despair by this ever-dedicated, disciplined artist is revealed in the penultimate paragraph:

    'Today I have painted a picture of a girl carrying green bananas on her head. I think it is good. I think – because the light is so bad that I cannot control it. We are here very near the Equator and the light is frightful.'

    The dull light is masterfully transformed by the artist's characteristic range of exquisite greens so typical of the Congo works of both visits and clearly evident here. Once again she has lost herself in her work and triumphed. Perhaps she saw herself as a bearer of gifts as we read references to this in her early illustrated Journal dated 1919, where she refers to 'the precious gift of golden light...' and references to 'the Blue One' who brought a piece of the sun 'down to the huts where beings live...'


    BIBLIOGRAPHY:
    M. Berman, Remembering Irma, (Cape Town, 2003)
    N. Dubow, Paradise - The Journal and Letters (1917-1933) of Irma Stern, (Cape Town, 1991)

    We are grateful to Christopher Peter of the Irma Stern Museum for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
* Import low rate

VAT on imported items at a preferential rate of 5% on Hammer Price and the prevailing rate on Buyer's Premium.

Contacts
  1. Customer Services (UK)
    Customer Services
    Bonhams
    Work
    Work +44 20 7447 7447
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7401
  2. Shipping (UK)
    Logistics - Shipping
    Bonhams
    Work
    Work +44 20 7468 8302
    FaxFax: + 44 20 7629 9673
Similar Items