Bonhams to sell Zulu heritage in London

German art training that gave new insights into Africa

When does a work of art become part of a country's national heritage? Bonhams next sale of South African Art on 21st March 2012 in New Bond Street, London,may go some way towards answering that question when "Zulu Woman"
by Irma Stern goes under the hammer.

Painted in 1935 at the height of her creative powers by South Africa's leading artist, Irma Stern, it is estimated to sell for £400,000 to £600,00. As Irma Stern's reputation is without equal in the field of South African art and the image is an iconic one of African womanhood from one of South Africa's leading tribes, there is every reason to believe it qualifies as something very special.
There are supporting arguments: Irma Stern is one of the five most highly sought after female artists in the world; South Africa is currently governed by President Jacob Zuma, a Zulu by birth, and the history of the Zulus is central to the history Southern Africa. It is a powerful case. How powerful will be evident in the amount of bidding on the day and the price achieved.

The picture was acquired in Johannesburg between 1946-1950 by the current owner's father.

Giles Peppiatt, Director of South African Art at Bonhams comments: "One of the really exciting things about fine art auctioneering is the way in which you get to see trends developing, artists reputations rising and falling, new names emerging. The last five years has seen a virtual revolution in the assessment of South African art with prices reaching into the multi millions for the first time. The most consistent trend during this time is the pre-eminence of Irma Stern. And that is for a very good reason. She was the first European trained painter to depict African scenes in a way that was demonstrably African. You could argue that she actually helped to create a new kind of art – painted by whites but with an African aesthetic."

Irma Stern was born in South Africa to German parents and the family returned to Berlin after the Boer War. She studied art at the Weimar Academy and later with Max Pechstein, and so was associated with the German Expressionist painters of this period. She held her first exhibition in Berlin in 1919 before returning to Cape Town with her family in 1920.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

  1. Giles Peppiatt
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8355
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 5839

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