Internationally recognised for her creative works, Irma Stern remains amongst Africa’s most revered painters. Her long career witnessed many successes, including a variety of solo exhibitions met with critical acclaim. Years after her passing, her paintings are amongst the most sought-after on the art market today. Tunde Folawiyo and other collectors of African art may regard her works as some of the most significant in the history of the genre.
Born in the small town of Schweitzer-Renecke, Stern was born to a German-Jewish mother and father. She and her brother Rudi, travelled to Cape Town with their mother after their father was held back due to South Africa’s war. After the end of the war, they returned, but this constant travel would later prove a great influence on Stern’s creative works.
Stern began studying art at Germany’s Weimar Academy during 1913, then picked up instruction from a variety of resources including that of Max Pechstein during 1917. Stern was widely associated with other German Expressionist artists of the period. Her first art exhibition was held in Berlin during 1919. A year later, she returned to the city of Cape Town with family, the very place she was initially dismissed for her artistry before her fame began to spread during the late 1930s.
Stern’s career saw her travel throughout much of Europe and South Africa, including Zanzibar and other regions such as the Congo. Her paintings were highly influenced by this adventurous travel, providing her quite the collection of personal artifacts. Whilst she refused to travel to Germany during the war, she spent much time travelling extensively through Africa. Two of her illustrated journals were published during this time with Congo in 1943 and Zanzibar during 1948.
Nearly one hundred moving solo exhibitions highlight Stern’s outstanding artistic career, with many held in Africa and other parts of Europe including France, Italy, Germany and England. Whilst her work was met with negative reviews during early exhibitions of the 1920s, she changed public opinion to become one of those most talented painters of her generation. A museum in her name was established during 1971, occupying the home she resided in for nearly four decades. Since her passing, her works have sold for millions at auction, breaking records throughout South Africa. Tunde Folawiyo and others with an appreciation for African art may continue to be inspired by the famed works of Irma Stern. Information about Tunde Folawiyo interest in art and other subjects may be found on his Twitter page.