Still life with amaryllis signed and dated 'Irma Stern / 1940' (lower right) oil on canvas 87.5 x 94.5cm (34 7/16 x 37 3/16in).
PROVENANCE With Louis Schachat, Die Kunskamer Collection, 1984 A private collection
Still Life with Amaryllis, along with Irma Stern's other exuberant compositions depicting simple objects, are seen as some of the greatest examples of the modernist preoccupation with the still life genre in the 20th Century. Stern's still life paintings comprise of her most sumptuous, lavish and sensual images. The artist's first trip to Zanzibar in 1939 heralded the beginning of her most successful and fruitful era that ran throughout the 1940s.
Stern reacted intensely to colour and her still life paintings emphatically display her colour sense. The above image is a beautiful example that imparts nature's energy, which is emphasised further by her brilliant use of colour. The red hues are offset by the complementary green stems and vase. The tones of the deep red tepals are contrasted with the surrounding, subtly infused, pink crimson tepals, breathing life into the amaryllises. The volumetric mass of the flowers is articulated by the light central bloom drooping heavily into the foreground space.
Just as Stern's portraits are infiltrated by her temperament, she imputes energy to inanimate forms through her expressive use of colour and mark. The physicality of objects, their materials, forms and surfaces, presented a challenge for Stern, as description had to be balanced with expression. A smaller, later work, Amaryllis, 1943, is similar in subject and sold at Stephan Welz & Co., Johannesburg, 7 June 1993, lot 32. The turquoise glazed Chinese martaban, or storage jar, featured in the present lot dates from the latter part of the Qing Dynasty (1633-1912). It features in many of Stern's still-lifes and is still in the collection of the Irma Stern Museum.
BIBLIOGRAPHY M. Arnold, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, (Stellenbosch, 1995), p.125 H. Smuts, At home with Irma Stern, (Cape Town, 2007), p.15