Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts and Jewellery

Live Auction, 7 October 2019

Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art

Sold for

ZAR 2 617 400
Lot 595
  • Irma Stern; Still Life with Gladioli and Fruit

Lot Estimate
ZAR 2 500 000 - 3 500 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 2 617 400

About this Item

South African 1894-1966
Still Life with Gladioli and Fruit

signed and dated 1960

oil on canvas
85 by 67cm excluding frame


Writing vividly about her homeland in 1923, Irma Stern said: “Africa – the word was the personification of everything desirable to me. The land of my childhood…The endless sky. The splendour of its flowers saturated with colour. The fruit with its sweet and yet so sharp fragrance.”1 Stern was so enamoured with flowers and fruit that they became a popular motif for her; creating a prolific number of these still lives throughout her oeuvre.

For forty years she lived at The Firs in Rosebank, where she lovingly tended a garden overflowing with flowers ranging from “larkspurs, stocks, enormous geraniums, all shades of pelargoniums, great balls of white and also yellow daisies, violet and yellow poppies, sunflowers, and many, many roses, carnations, petunias, fuchsias.”2 Stern’s studio had French doors that offered her a view of the “lovely garden riotous with colour like the pictures its flowers inspire.”3 While she was certainly inspired by her garden and would take flower cuttings from there, for variety she also depended on flowers purchased from local sellers.

Stern enjoyed composing these paintings; pairing lush bouquets of flowers alongside richly coloured fruits and items pulled from the extensive collection of objects that she amassed during her travels and her own homemade ceramics. She often used her still lives as paint application and colour experiments, especially indulging her love for complementary colours. In the present lot, the soft violets and lilacs of the gladioli are set against purple’s complementary colour, yellow. The lone fuchsia dahlia is nestled in the green stems of the gladioli and the juicy pop of red pomegranates is balanced by the analogous blue-green-yellows of the accompanying fruits, fabric, and yellow anthurium. This juxtaposition of subtle and vibrant colours creates visual excitement in the work; a symphony of colour for the viewer to behold.


  1. Karel Schoeman (1994) Irma Stern: The Early Years, Cape Town. Page 65.
  2. Ibid. Page 88.
  3. Ibid.

View all Irma Stern lots for sale in this auction

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