Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966) Portrait of an Indian woman

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Lot 31
Irma Stern
(South African, 1894-1966)
Portrait of an Indian woman

Sold for £ 35,000 (US$ 48,305) inc. premium
Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966)
Portrait of an Indian woman
signed and dated 'Irma Stern/ 1945' (upper right); inscribed 'Mr Suzman' (verso)
gouache
62 x 49cm (24 7/16 x 19 5/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Collection of Mr & Mrs Suzman.
    By descent to present owner.
    A private collection, Ireland.


    This gouache was executed in 1945, the same year that Stern made her second visit to Zanzibar. The archipelago was a source of fascination to the artist. Here she was exposed to a plethora of different practices and dress. The positioning of the islands had made them an important trading hub for goods coming from the Middle East and India. Some of these merchants settled in the area, establishing pockets of Malay, Indian and Arab communities. Stern, with her penchant for the exotic, was immediately entranced.

    It is not entirely clear whether Stern encountered this young Indian woman in Zanzibar or in Cape Town, as she has been positioned against a neutral backdrop. However, the gouache possesses all of the qualities that we associate with the Zanzibar works - vibrant colours, sensual application of paint, the interplay of warm flesh tones and dark glossy hair.

    In an interview with the Cape Argus, Stern described painting an earlier portrait of an Indian woman as a quasi-mystical experience:

    "(The) East - the cradle of culture. Its symbols, its philosophy, all its mystery lie in their large almond-shaped eyes. I completely lost my heart to one Indian lady, the wife of a rich Indian merchant. Her face was like a delicate ivory carving, and just like ivory when time has touched it - tinted; her neck was like a fragile stalk of a hot-house flower. Only after promising never to show her portrait in public did she permit me to paint her.2 (The Cape Argus, 3 April 1926)

    Bibliography
    Standard Bank Gallery exhibition catalogue, Irma Stern: Expressions of a Journey, (Johannesburg, 2003), p.62.
    H.Proud & C.Kaufmann, ed. Brushing up on Stern: Featuring Works from the Permanent Collection of the Iziko South African National Gallery, (Cape Town, 2015), p.69.
    M.Arnold, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eyes, (Johannesburg, 1995), p.102.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the editors of "Brushing up on Stern" referenced in the Bibliography of this lot should read "C. Kaufmann and A. Lewis". Not as stated.
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