ART S/Peak of the WEEK 4

ART S/Peak of the WEEK 4

Colour and Lushness of Life in the work of Irma Stern

29/11/2021     Weekly with Percy


There is a charge and charm that converges colour, courage and clarity of creative vision in the work of Irma Stern. It’s thrilling electricity that is palpable all over her painting Still life with roses, blue bowl and artist's brushes in a pot. The oil on canvas master work goes on sale this week in our 30 November auction in Johannesburg evening sale. So, it’s my Art S/peak of the week.


Art historically, Still life with roses, blue bowl and artist's brushes in a pot is remarkable because it belongs to Stern's golden period. Stern’s still lifes from this era have been praised for their ‘molten magma of colour’ and heralded to be amongst her finest work.


The composition is set up against a background wall with variations in yellow and a white tablecloth made grey by shade and shadows. The magic of this painting is in the way Stern studies the nature of light, shadow and refracted colour working in concert on the objects arranged in the picture.


The spritely lemons of the yellows on the wall, the matte of the painted fabric along with the cold lustre of the ceramic glassing of the bowl are captured with striking acuity. These aspects of the picture are given further force by Stern's generous application of paint. This impasto handling gives the surface a fleshy visceral quality. It lends a relief-like sculptural texture to her canvas – endowing the painting an exuberant spirit that celebrates the lushness of life. 

In this auction, Still life with roses, blue bowl and artist's brushes in a pot hangs with welcomed contrasting energy alongside more monochromatic contemporary masterpieces; like drawings by Diane Victor, who trains her eye on the darker side of life. In a way, this contrast also points to the range of perspectives on life by creative women over the ages. This diversity of vision should go on to please and enrich the lives of whoever will place winning bids on these works during this auction.


-Percy Mabandu