Mon, 31st Oct 2016 20:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 30
Lot 30 - Irma Stern (South Africa 1894-1966)


Irma Stern (South Africa 1894-1966)
Madeira street scene

oil on canvas

Sold for R511,560
Estimated at R500,000 - R800,000

Condition Report

Canvas loose, hairline cracks in areas of lighter paint, pressure mark top right corner, otherwise good.

Please note, we are not qualified conservators and these reports give our opinion as to the general condition of the works. We advise that bidders view the lots in person to satisfy themselves with the condition of prospective purchases.


oil on canvas


50.5 x 40.5 cm


Irma Stern’s Madeira Street Scene conjures a world of desire. It is a place to which she returned often – we know that she visited the island off the south-west coast of Portugal in 1931 for three months, in 1950, 1962 and again in 1963, when she stayed for four months. In the artist’s words, ‘Madeira, to me a wordless concept of earliest delights. Sun and bright colours and beautiful children with big, dark eyes. Flowers covering the walls of the brightly-coloured houses’ (Schoeman 1994:99).

Stern captures this scene from a high vantage point. It’s as if we are standing on a balcony where the artist stood, gazing over the balustrade, taking in the view of the houses lining the street below. We can only imagine what she was thinking.

Madeira was a place she clearly loved to visit whether en-route to Europe or for extended painting trips. Its Portuguese character, peoples and flavours would, no doubt, have evoked particular associations for her, amongst these – most powerfully – her memories of falling in love with Portuguese author and professor, Hipolito Raposo, whom she had met on board ship in 1923. As Marion Arnold intuits, he ‘had been her grand passion and, on Madeira, she must have remembered his magnetism’ (Arnold 1995:20).

In October 1931 she wrote to her good friend Roza van Gelderen: ‘I have made a good many pictures – I think you will like … But how I can go away from here and feel happy again I do not know – it is so full of beauty and color and life’ (Arnold 1995:20).

This is, in all likelihood, a later painting, possibly post-dating her 1950 Madeira visit, when her brushwork loosened and her paint was more expressively, but still thickly, applied in

rapid brushstrokes. The effect is of a painting seething with passion and pleasure as if the artist has drawn on all her painterly power to relive moments of this first love.

Emma Bedford


Arnold, M. (1995) Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye. Cape Town: Fernwood Press.

Schoeman, K. (1994) Irma Stern: The early years, 1894-1933. Cape Town: South African Library.

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, Mon, 31st Oct 2016

The line-up for our inaugural sale included an extraordinary selection of art. Works ranged from JH Pierneef’s breathtaking Karoo near Hofmeyer, painted in 1930, to Dan Halter’s 2006, ultraviolet light, Pefection. 

Sculptures varied from Edoardo Villa’s acknowledgment of French artist, Aristide Maillol to Wim Botha’s heads that draw on classical and contemporary sources and Ed Young’s cheeky nude self-portrait. Also included were impressive photographs by award-winners, David Goldblatt and Pieter Hugo.

The auction set an impressive standard, with an outstanding sell-through rate of over 75% across 121 lots. The top lot of the sale was Alexis Preller’s exceptional Profile Figures (Mirrored Image), selling for over  R7-million. Record sales were achieved for Villa, Goldblatt, and Hugo, amongst others.


Friday 28 October 2016 | 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 28 October 2016 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 28 October 2016 | 10 am – 4 pm


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