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Irma Stern

About the artist

Irma Stern (1894–1966)

Painter, sculptor, ceramicist and avid traveller – Irma Stern is a South African artist who was achieved international recognition during her life time and greatly influenced the local avant-garde art scene.

1894
1894
Schweizer-Reneke, South Africa

Birth

Irma Stern is born in 1894 to German Jewish parents at Schweizer-Reneke, a small town in the North West Province of South Africa, where her father established a thriving trading store and cattle farm. Interned during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) because of his pro-Boer sympathies, Irma and her brother are taken by their mother to Cape Town. After his release, the family goes to Germany and thus begins a pattern of regular travel, which will characterise her life.
Exhibition: Irma Stern: Nudes
1914–1920
1914–1920
Berlin and Weimar, Germany

A new home

Intermittent periods of Irma's childhood are spent in South Africa, however, the years of the First World War (1914-1918) are based in Germany. Irma Stern decides to become an artist, studying in Berlin and Weimer. Through the support of the Expressionist, Max Pechstein, her first solo exhibition is held in Berlin in 1916, yet on returning permanently to South Africa her work is initially derided.
1920
1920
Cape Town, South Africa

Returning

Irma returns to South Africa in 1920 at the age of 25. Her home, ‘The Firs’, will become today’s museum. This house is, for four decades (1927–1966) the stable point in Irma’s life. In it she paints, lives and entertains, and to it she brings the collections of artworks and artifacts from her extensive travels in Africa and Europe. In her will, Irma Stern leaves her collections in trust for the encouragement and promotion of Fine Arts within and outside South Africa.
Newspaper clipping
1922
1922
Cape Town, South Africa

'Outrageous'

At the age of 25, Irma holds her first local exhibition at Ashbey’s Galleries in 1922 in Cape Town. In the conservative Cape Town art world this exhibition is considered outrageous and people queue to see what was described as a shocking exhibition.
1930–1955
1930–1955
Europe, Africa

Travelling

Throughout her life, Irma Stern travels extensively and exhibits widely at home and abroad. In addition to her role as an artist Stern is a discriminating collector. Her varied collections displayed throughout the rooms of her home include ancient Egyptian and Hellenistic Greek artefacts, 3rd century Indian stone carvings and Chinese ceramics, pre-Columbian masks, 14th century European church carvings, as well European furniture dating back to the 15th century and, most importantly, an extensive collection of African art. Irma Stern travels extensively in Europe and explores Southern Africa, Zanzibar and the Congo. These trips provide a wide range of subject matter for her paintings and give her opportunities to acquire and assemble an eclectic collection of artefacts for her home.
1945–1966
1945–1966
Cape Town, South Africa

Acclaimed

It is only in her late forties that Irma’s reputation is firmly established in South Africa. During the 1950s and 1960s, her works find their way into the major South African public collections.

Tue ‒ Fri: 10am ‒ 05pm
Sat: 10am ‒ 02pm

Adults: R80
U18's, students, pensioners, UCT staff: free

21 Cecil Road, Rosebank, Cape Town
021 650 7240