South African and International Art

Drawings, Watercolours, Paintings, Prints and Sculpture

Johannesburg  |  4:00pm Mon 12 Nov 2012


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Lot 195

South African 1894-1966
Young Swazi Woman
signed and dated 1941
52.5 by 34.5cm excluding frame

Sold for R 1 000 000
Including Buyer's Premium and VAT R 1 114 000

Estimate R 800 000 - 1 200 000

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Marion Arnold, in her book on Irma Stern, asserts: “If portraits are likenesses, it is arguable whether the [Young Swazi Woman] is best understood as a portrait of a woman or as a painting of a woman. Stern, viewing ‘the other’, never forgot her own identity as an artist and this is asserted in her painterly style that sometimes overwhelms the identity of the model she observes.”1

This work ably demonstrates Stern’s confidence with the often challenging medium of gouache. The very nature of the medium demands quick decision making and the surety of Irma’s hand in her middle period can be clearly seen. Irma’s colour confidence is seen in the palette of this work - the warmth of the orange cloth offsets the dark skin tones of the sitter, deep aubergine and shades of teal describe the planes of her face. The typically averted gaze of Stern’s subject further distances her need to engage with her subject and she is free to explore line, shape and colour – which ultimately result in this keenly observed portrait.

1 Arnold, Marion, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, Fernwood Press, Cape Town, 1995, page 103.

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