19 September 2014 Archived
Tiger Lilies was painted in 1932, shortly after Irma Stern's return to Cape Town following successful exhibitions in Europe. Marking a significant break with European influence, and Stern's determination to establish her own artistic identity and distinctive South African style, the painting is seminal in her oeuvre.
“Tiger Lilies” represents an early version of Stern’s celebratory philosophy of Africa, the intellectual product of her recognition of the significance of her location on the African continent whose art had inspired European modernism. It is precisely this aspect of her portraits produced in the ’40s that is increasingly recognised in the critical literature on Stern.
Her handling of the fruit in the foreground of “Tiger Lilies” acknowledges the significance for the artist of Paul Cézanne’s style, and, by contrast, her vigorous paint application and use of strong complementary colours is influenced by her involvement with German Expressionists, including her mentor and close friend Max Pechstein.
According to Mona Berman, Stern told the Feldmans, “I met [the great sculptor Joseph] Epstein in London – that he loved my work – spent a few hours in my exhibition and said, ‘At last a painter who can paint comes to London. Do you know that nobody living can paint flowers better than you do – that the Renoir roses I just saw look like paper against your flowers’”.
Stern’s creative intelligence and passion was grounded in her strong physical presence. Bursting with vitality, the painting epitomises the flamboyant character that made Stern so memorable to all who encountered her.
Preview - Friday 10 to Sunday 12 October, 10am to 5pm