Irma Stern works never before seen in public up for auction

Irma Stern: Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl (Supplied)
Irma Stern: Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl (Supplied)

An Irma Stern still life never before seen in public is set to be auctioned by Aspire Art Auctions as part of its Winter 18 auction at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Sandton.

Aspire describes the painting as "new to the market... rare and exceptional". It is entitled Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl and dates from 1944 to 1949.

Dr Marion Arnold of Loughborough University in the UK, an authority on Stern and author of the book Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, says “Stern produced still life paintings throughout her career, invariably depicting natural and cultural forms".

Arnold says flowering plants and fruits, often from her garden, feature prominently as do artefacts she collected.

“Irma Stern is of course one of South Africa’s premier artists at auction in the country,” says Aspire senior art specialist and director Mary-Jane Darroll.

“She is also one of the only South African artists, along with William Kentridge, Marlene Dumas, J.H. Pierneef and Gerard Sekoto, to boast an international auction reputation and features in the Artprice Global 500 ranking of collectable artists."

Darroll says it is exciting that the work going under the hammer has not previously been seen at an auction.

Another work by Stern to be auctioned is entitled Still life with chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug (1950). It is another painting which has never before come under the hammer.

Irma Stern: Still life with chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug


Both works were held in private family collections and were previously unseen on the open market.

Paintings by Alexis Preller also appear in the collection of works coming to auction. Celestial Twins (1955), originally sold from the Estate Late JF van Reenen collection, is a principal study for the artist’s large commission All Africa, while The Wounded Soldier (1944) is regarded as a significant and empathetic response by a sensitive artist to the horrors of his wartime experiences.

Other major modern South African artists' works represented at the auction include a Gerard Sekoto painting entitled Bustling street scene (1961).

Other works on this auction include two incised wood panels by prominent Amadlozi Group artist Cecil Skotnes. African figures recalls another work of the same title from 1965, which fetched the highest price ever for a Skotnes work at auction in South Africa in 2010.

Another major piece, The Legend of the Judean War (1984), reflects the changes in Skotnes’ approach later in his career.

A number of works by Skotnes’ fellow Amadlozi alumnus Edoardo Villa also feature. Most prominent among these is Sculpture VIII (1970).  

Contemporary works on the sale include an early series of uncatalogued prints by William Kentridge, The Muizenberg series (1977).

Other contemporary works include an early, large-scale abstract by Zander Blom and a hyper-realist painting by Deborah Poynton as well as pieces by Sandile Zulu and Kay Hassan, among others.

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