Important South African Paintings, Furniture, Silver, Ceramics and Glass

Live Auction, 7 March 2011


Sold for

ZAR 3 342 000
Lot 252
  • Irma Stern; Still Life with Camellias

Lot Estimate
ZAR 3 000 000 - 4 000 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 3 342 000

About this Item

South African 1894-1966
Still Life with Camellias

signed and dated 1940

oil on canvas
57 by 47,5cm excluding frame


This still life of beautiful blooms, luxuriant foliage and a simple ceramic confirms Irma Stern’s ability to achieve extraordinary effects with a minimum of means. The painting displays both the delight she took in savouring bold and subtle colour combinations and her ability to manipulate complementary colours to astonishing visual effect. A chartreuse background and a teal-toned ceramic provide the perfect foil from which the Camellias project in a glorious array of reds ranging from cool crimsons to warm vermilions through to deep burgundies in the flowers and cerise tones in the foreground fabric.

Confident flourishes of impasto paint and assured brushwork define and emphasise the forms. In both the selection of the objects and in her interpretation of the subject, Stern’s highly-refined sensibility is evident.

The flowers depicted here are Camellia japonica “Grand Sultan”, an old Belgian cultivar from the 1840s, which was commonly planted in Cape gardens from late Victorian times into the twentieth century. A number of large specimens are growing near Stern’s home, The Firs in Rosebank, now the University of Cape Town Irma Stern Museum. Several huge specimens of “Grand Sultan” were planted by Cecil John Rhodes in his Camellia walk on the University of Cape Town’s campus off Lovers Walk in Rondebosch, and are still thriving after 120 years.i

i. All information on the flowers in this painting was supplied by Dr john Rourke in conversation with Emma Bedford and an email dated 11 January 2011.

View all Irma Stern lots for sale in this auction

Other lots that might interest you
Irma Stern; Still Life with Fruit and Flowers
Irma Stern
Still Life with Fruit and Flowers
ZAR 900 000 - 1 200 000
Irma Stern; The Lemon Pickers
Irma Stern
The Lemon Pickers
ZAR 10 000 000 - 14 000 000
Irma Stern; Still Life of Delphiniums
Irma Stern
Still Life of Delphiniums
ZAR 10 000 000 - 12 000 000
Irma Stern; Still Life of Roses and Apples
Irma Stern
Still Life of Roses and Apples
ZAR 7 000 000 - 9 000 000
Irma Stern; Port at Isla da Tabarca
Irma Stern
Port at Isla da Tabarca
ZAR 120 000 - 160 000
Irma Stern; The Catch of the Day
Irma Stern
The Catch of the Day
ZAR 1 000 000 - 1 500 000