Irma Stern: Malay Lady in Yellow

Quick Overview

Irma Stern is one of South Africa's most famous woman painters, highly sought after by both the local and international art collectors market.  During her lifetime, there was almost 100 solo exhibitions of her work during in South Africa and Europe.  She had a very characteristic style and worked in a variety of media.  Her travels greatly influenced her work and she was especially fond of painting portraits and still lifes.  

This specific still life was painted in 1942.  She loved painting portraits and were very inspired by different people in their 'natural environment'.  One of the things that set her apart from the European artists who liked painting the 'exotic', is that she always returned home again for inspiration.  In Cape Town where she lived, enjoyed observing people in the 'Malay Quarter' as it was called then.  She was inspired by the vibrancy she encountered there and it showed in her work. 

The 1940's is seen as quite a significant time in her career, where she produced some of her most famous and popular work.  Neville Dubow (once director of the Irma Stern Museum) was quoted saying this about her work in the 1940's: "a peak of excellence that could stand comparison with representational paintings anywhere else in the West... one could claim international stature for her work of the 1940s. Nationally...there was no one to touch her."  You can read more about her life's work on this website:

This specific painting is rich in yellow and ochre tones, which is in a nice harmony with the mauve blouse and red table.  The headscarf she is wearing almost frames her face, emphasising the faraway expression on her face.   This richly coloured 40 x 50cm version of ours is quite a challenging one and has 24 colours.  Each box contains a stretched, printed and numbered canvas, paint, brushes and a page detailing the numbers for an extra reference.



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