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

Live Auction, 7 March 2011


Sold for

ZAR 1 114 000
Lot 260
  • Irma Stern; The Catch of the Day

Lot Estimate
ZAR 1 000 000 - 1 500 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 1 114 000

About this Item

South African 1894-1966
The Catch of the Day

signed and dated 1934

oil on canvas
57 by 55cm excluding frame


Catch of the Day is rare amongst Irma Stern’s still lifes that usually tend to feature flowers, fruits and vegetables. An earlier painting of fish produced in 1924 and entitled The Fish Godi features a wooden artefact in such a way that conveys the artist’s interest in the symbolic overtones of the fish. By contrast the physicality of the fish are foregrounded in this later painting that bears all the hallmarks of her mature style.

Strong outlines, broad brushstrokes and paint applied with a palette knife reveal her confident approach and her delight in her subject. The freshness of the colours and the direct and unlaboured treatment suggest that she worked quickly without the need to rework her painting. The fish at the back still has the string threaded through its mouth and emerging from its gills indicating how the fisherman would have strung together his catch.

The fish with their characteristically prominent eyes are jacopever (Jacks) or Cape redfish (Sebastes capensis).ii Reaching a maximum 37 centimetres, they are small fish of reddish or brownish colour. Interestingly, they are found only off the western coast of South Africa, Tristan da Cunha and in the southernmost waters of South America.

i. See Marion Arnold, Irma Stern: A Feast for the Eye, Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation and Fernwood Press, Cape Town, 1995, pp. 127 and 130.
ii. Fish identified by David Vaughan of the Two Oceans Aquarium in an email to Emma Bedford dated 7 January 2011.


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