Mother and child signed and dated 'Irma Stern / 1949' (upper left) oil on canvas 63 x 53.5cm (24 13/16 x 21 1/16in).
PROVENANCE With Die Kunskamer The collection of R. Brett Kebble
The image depicts an 'ordinary' mother and child, possibly inspired by a scene which Irma Stern may have encountered on one of her trips in Africa. Neither the identities nor the location of the women and child are specified. The depiction of the 'ordinary' mother and child evokes the iconic Christian image, yet it remains speculative whether Stern deliberately intended the work to be perceived as the 'African' Madonna and Child. By the end of the 1940s, Stern's attitude towards the social realities in Germany and in South Africa impacted her work and it's significant that she became interested in religious subjects in the late forties, painting several well-known Christian themes. (In 1947 she persuaded Mrs E Einhorn to sit with her baby, for this study of the Madonna with a human baby (Mother and Child (1947) and the imaginative interpretation, Annunciation was painted in the same year).
In Mother and Child (1949), the volumetric figure of the woman and child has been compressed, filling the canvas and heightening the presence and the intensity of the figures. The figures are rendered in equally robust and vivid colours accentuating the monumentality of the figures but also suggestive of a different social reality. The cloth draped over the women's head emphasizes the moment of intimacy between the mother and child, a moment to which the artist alone is privy. It has been suggested that Stern's portrayal of people from different cultures are primarily concerned with the culture rather than the individual, rendering her portraits ambivalent, possessing both stereotypical and individual characteristics. However; visually, this work remains an arresting and compelling image.
BIBLIOGRAPHY M. Arnold, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, (Stellenbosch, 1995), pp.101, 103