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Lot 73*
Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966) Potato pickers
£120,000 - 180,000
US$ 200,000 - 300,000
Lot Details
Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966)
Potato pickers
signed and dated 'Irma Stern / 1961' (upper right)
oil on canvas
93 x 74cm (36 5/8 x 29 1/8in).


    Acquired by the current owner's parents, Cape Town, 1960s
    A private collection

    This harvest scene is a vibrant composition of five women picking potatoes in a furrowed field. Images of fruitful labour, and particularly harvest scenes, were a recurrent theme in Stern's career, particularly amongst her later works. Painted in the same year (1961) as comparable works such as Tomato Pickers – and with figures donning similar attire (including yellow sunhats) – it is likely that the work was painted while the artist was in Spain.

    Each figure in the composition of the current lot is captured in a different pose, from squatting to almost prostrate; each depicted as an element of nature and pictorial form rather than a distinct individual. The rhythmic nature of Stern's composition and the immediacy of her brushwork are complemented by strong colours in autumnal hues. Previous director of the Irma Stern museum, Neville Dubow, has referred to Stern's harvest scenes from this period as "lyrical figures-in-landscape compositions, loosely knit yet held together by sweeping rhythms that bind earth, workers, and sky".

    N. Dubow, Irma Stern, (Cape Town, 1974), p.21
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