Malay girl with fruit signed and dated 'Irma Stern / 1949' (upper left) oil on board 63 x 52cm (24 13/16 x 20 1/2in). in carved wood Zanzibar-style frame
PROVENANCE The collection of Bram and Roma Verhoeff A private collection
Irma Stern painted many portraits and her most noticeable feature of the vast oeuvre of portraits is her brazen and sensuous delight in colour. Malay Girl with Fruit demonstrates her richness and range of Stern's palette, the rhythm and line in her artwork is often concealed behind the intense and vibrant hues which permeate the canvas. In this image Stern makes use of warm appealing colours, like brown and orange with shades of gentle blue. Stern's simple yet sophisticated compositional devices such as the bold colour blocking, the line of her subject and the tangerine coloured headscarf, draw the viewer's attention to the heart of the painting the elegantly poised lady and the mysterious side profile of her face. It's almost as if Stern is only allowing the viewer to see aspects of the Malay girl. Elements such as the thick brush strokes, tone and texture tie together, enabling her to fuse naturalistic detail with expressive mark and colour. Her excellent use of colour-handling enabled her to fuse an outward appearance with a sense of inner energy and effectively render non-visible attributes of the sitter's personality. Malay Girl with Fruit is one of Stern's most compelling portraits painted in 1949, a time which is considered by many to represent the peak of her mature expression.
BIBLIOGRAPHY M. Arnold, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, (Stellenbosch, 1995), pp.98, 100 E. Berman, Painting in South Africa, (Pretoria, 1993), p.79