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date: 31 October 2020

Stern, Irmalocked

(b Schweizer-Renecke, Transvaal, Oct 2, 1894; d Cape Town, Aug 23, 1966).
  • Esmé Berman


(b Schweizer-Renecke, Transvaal, Oct 2, 1894; d Cape Town, Aug 23, 1966).

South African painter. She was studying art in Germany at the outbreak of World War I and thus began her career in Berlin. There she associated with the Expressionists; Max Pechstein was particularly encouraging and helped to arrange her first exhibition (Berlin, 1919). Stern returned to South Africa in 1920 and exhibited in Cape Town. Undaunted by an outraged reaction, she continued to employ a subjective use of colours and vigorous linear distortions, creating a large, distinctive and forceful oeuvre, sustained by her wide travels in Africa and Europe.

Natural vitality and fruitfulness are Stern’s primary themes. Fruit, flowers and especially people crowd her canvases. During the 1920s and 1930s she created vivid images of scenes and figures encountered in African villages. Such paintings as Pondo Woman (1929; Pretoria, A. Mus.) exemplify her sensuous delight in the physical grace of the tribal peoples and in the lush, tropical surroundings as yet unspoilt by civilized incursions. During the 1940s Stern travelled in East Africa. Her depictions of Arab figures and Muslim themes painted in Zanzibar (now in Tanzania), for example ...

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E. Berman: Art and Artists of South Africa (Cape Town, 1970, rev. Halfway House, 1993)