Still life with poinsettias signed and dated 'Irma Stern / 1943' (upper left) oil on canvas 61 x 61cm (24 x 24in).
PROVENANCE: A private collection
"It is essentially the painter's gestural mark that gives the flowers and fruit in her still lifes the sensuality that keeps them fresh to the eye of the beholder and to the present moment. The great French master Paul Cezanne, whom Stern respected above all painters, would call all this 'a harmony between several interactions. A powerful organising mind is the best to aid sensation in the realisation of a work of art.' What ultimately captivates our attention is the physicality of each touch of white light and each bold green smear of paint - evidence of the painter's complete presence in every mark she made."
Poinsettias were a favourite flower for Stern, perhaps because of their dramatic colour or the way the blossoms can morph from brilliant, sturdy stars to dying fireworks, providing visual interest like few other flowers can. The blooms appear in her still-lifes throughout her career and constitute some of her most sumptuous works. Stern did not share the fear of others that certain colours might not 'go', and could simply look to nature to prove this point. Her palette was thus free and her brush ready to mix and contrast any colours to her heart's content. In the present lot, the combination of the starkly contrasting colours of red and green makes the flower leap off the canvas, and exemplifies Stern at her most expressive genius.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: H. Smuts, At Home With Irma Stern, (Cape Town, 2007), p. 35