Irma Stern’s ‘Praying Arab’ goes under the hammer next week

Irma Stern’s ‘Praying Arab’ goes under the hammer next week

A rare, highly important painting dating from the golden period of one of South Africa’s most eminent artists, Irma Stern, will come under the hammer in Cape Town next week.

The public has a rare opportunity to see the work, Praying Arab, and other museum quality art before it is sold off.

An exhibition of the works that will go on sale is free to the public to view and enjoy for the next week.

The painting dates from 1945 during Irma Stern’s second visit to Zanzibar.

The period between 1939 until the time this artwork was created, is considered to be the master’s height of her skill.

Works from the Zanzibar era, in carved wooden frames commissioned by the artist herself, are highly sought after.

Experts say this period is the culmination of her experience, technique and subject matter mastery.

Senior Specialist at Strauss & Co, Ian Hunter says, “The rich tapestry of colour, the observation in the hands, in the face, in the facets in the sculpting of the facial and hand features. The reverence of the man as he looks towards his fingers with his prayer beads. There’s a wonderful interaction between the artist and the sitter.”

Stern painted her subjects in person.

Using quick brush strokes, as with Praying Arab, she attempted to capture the moment in time with light, dark and colour.

It contributes to the vibrancy of the work, 78 years after it was created.

Trained in the style of German expressionism, Stern made the style her own and used it, with great international acclaim, in the African context.

Hunter adds, “And then you have her mature work of which the Zanzibar series is emblematic and her later work subsequent to 1945. So, she was very contemporary in her day, she was a ground breaker in terms of being a women artist. She was courageous, she travelled to far and distant places to record the people and the places with her beautiful special brand of expressionist art making.”

Three other Stern works are also on display before the auction.

Strauss & Co selected work from the last 100 years, depicting a vast array of styles and approaches by South African artists.

The public is invited to visit Brickfield Canvas studio in Woodstock, free of charge, to see Praying Arab and other astonishing artworks.

Head of Sales at Strauss & Co, Jean Le Clus-Theron says, “It’s fabulous to have so many exciting artworks coming to the market because they are very rare to come to the market, I mean families hold on to their gems. Every 25 to 30 years, I mean, you don’t know when you’re going to see that artwork again and that you can say for a lot of the works on this sale. You might be able to see them again in a museum, hopefully, but if not, it will go into a private collection and might be loaned to exhibitions but this is a great opportunity to see works like this up close and personal at no cost.”

South African art is becoming more sought after internationally.

The auction of Praying Arab and other works will take place next week Tuesday.

A pre-sale estimate of the artwork is set at R16 million to R18 million rand. – Reporting by Andile Mbanjwa.


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