Still life with Chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug. Picture: ASPIRE ART AUCTIONS
Still life with Chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug. Picture: ASPIRE ART AUCTIONS

Two paintings by South African artist Irma Stern‚ previously unseen on the open market‚ with messages about Africa as a cultural melting pot, are going under the hammer in Johannesburg.

The paintings‚ previously held in private family collections‚ will form part of a sale of historic‚ modern and contemporary art on June 17 at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs).

Emma Bedford‚ a director of Aspire Art Auctions‚ said: "Given the international interest in Irma Stern, we are delighted to bring these two beautiful works to the market. They both embody her style and her philosophy, which was such a rich mélange of the cultures we are heir to here at the southern tip of Africa.

Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl. Picture: ASPIRE ART AUCTIONS
Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl. Picture: ASPIRE ART AUCTIONS

"What is particularly interesting in the one painting is the presence of a Chinese pot and an Arab-influenced table cover. The most valuable Stern ever sold‚ Arab Priest‚ bought by the Qatari government for £3,044,000 in 2011‚ also has this mix of elements."

The paintings on sale are Still life with magnolias‚ apples and bowl (1944/9), and Still life with chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug (1950).

Stern scholar Dr Marion Arnold‚ of Loughborough University‚ UK‚ said in a statement issued by the auctioneers: "Stern produced still-life paintings throughout her career‚ invariably depicting natural and cultural forms. Flowering plants and fruits‚ often from her garden at The Firs, in Rosebank, Cape Town‚ feature prominently‚ as do artifacts she collected."

Prof Sandra Klopper‚ art historian and former deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Cape Town‚ said the artist’s paintings "almost invariably include not only fruit and flowers‚ but objets d’art from her collection and‚ in some cases‚ her own ceramics. A highly inventive painter‚ she repeatedly transcends the constraints imposed by traditional genres to produce works that are often exuberantly energetic‚ but always carefully composed".

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