Irma Stern : ARTISTS : Die Kunskamer

Irma Stern


"Still Life with Fruit, Jug and Icon"



Born 1894 Schweizer-Reneke, Transvaal.

Died 1966 Cape Town.

An artist depicting figures, portraits, heads, landscapes, flowers, still life, harbour views, Cape Malay scenes, cityscapes, genre and coastal subjects.

Worked in many media including oil, tempera, watercolour, gouache, charcoal, ballpoint pen, conte, coloured inks and various graphic media, as well as a number of sculptures of figures and heads, ceramic pots and plates.

It is never difficult to recognize an oil painting done by Irma – the application of oil-paint which she used thickly with large brushstrokes; also known for the use of strong colours and dark outlines. She framed a number of her pictures in wood from Zanzibar door jambs.

Three films on her work have been made by the SA Department of Information.

In 1971  The Irma Stern Museum, situated in her house, was opened by the University of Cape Town.



Participated in group exhibitions from 1918 in Germany, SA, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Yugoslavia and the USA.



1927       Prix d’Honneur at the International Exhibition, Bordeaux, France

1952       Cape Tercentenary Molteno Grant

1960       Guggenheim Foundation Regional Award for SA

1963       Oppenheimer Award, Art SA Today

1965       Medal of Honour, SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

SA art has numbered several flamboyant figures among its makers, but none has equalled Irma Stern, in the impact of her presence, the energy and gusto with which she lived her life and the violence of the storms of controversy that surrounded her throughout it. Colour was to be the primary vehicle of her expressive inclinations and the richness and variety of her palette became the most distinctive feature of her style. 

She was undoubtedly influenced by her contact with German Expressionists, whose existence gave her the courage to pursue her independently subjective path, particularly amid the high-bound traditionalism of painting in SA at the time.