As interest in African art of all kinds continues to grow, Bonhams announces it will have two major works by South African immigrant artist Irma Stern in the house’s September 14th sale. Both Stern works are estimated at between 800k and 1.2m pounds:
Watussi Dancers was painted in the mid-1940s and reflects the extensive travels which the restless South Africa artist had made to Zanzibar and the region of the African Great Lakes during this period. It was in the Congo that Stern encountered the Tutsi people whose elegance and grace she captured in Watussi Dancers.
Zanzibar Arab, painted in Zanzibar in 1945, was also reproduced in the artist’s book, Zanzibar, where the artist illustrated her best works from this tour. The world record painting by Irma Stern, Arab Priest,that achieved £3.1 million at Bonhams recently was also illustrated in this publication.
Both paintings are framed in Stern’s beloved Zanzibar frames, crafted from sections of wooden Zanzibar doorways that remain to this day one of the enduring features of the island.
Other works by Stern in the sale include Still Life with Red Flowering Gum, estimated at £200,000-300,000 and Congo Women, estimated at £150,000-200,000. A particularly interesting work is Mediterranean Coastal Town. Stern never forgot her European roots. Her parents were German Jews who settled in South Africa in the 19th century and her formative years as an artist were spent in Germany during and immediately after the First World War. Her studies under the Expressionist painter, Max Pechstein, at the Berlin Academy set the course for the rest of her career. She also enjoyed great critical and commercial success in Europe to where she returned regularly throughout her life.Mediterranean Coastal Town, estimated at £80,000-120,000, is the result of a visit she made in the very early 1960s, a few years before her death in 1966.