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Irma Stern Museum
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The Artist


Almost one hundred solo exhibitions were held during her lifetime both in South Africa and Europe: including Germany, France, Italy and England. Although accepted in Europe, her work was unappreciated at first in South Africa where critics derided her early exhibitions in the 1920s with reviews titled "Art of Miss Irma Stern - Ugliness as a cult".

Gradually Irma became acknowledged as an established artist and from the 1940s achieved success locally.

Her method of working in her studio demanded intense concentration. She often put up a sign saying "Do not disturb" and proceeded to paint while chain smoking and drinking strong black coffee. She generally framed her own work, packed exhibitions and arranged sales herself.

Apparently, when working on a portrait she would observe the model very closely, step back and view them through half closed eyes and aim to complete the painting in one sitting.

Irma described the process of art production as follows: "I work a long time at a picture in my head... I never touch the canvas after it is finished."

Her style evolved over the years. A very versatile artist, she worked in a range of media including oils, water colour, gouache, charcoal as well as ceramics and sculpture.

Often the outline of a composition was delineated in blue. The use of thick paint sometimes applied with a palette knife creates a sense of emotional intensity expressed in the choice of subject matter, be it landscape, portrait or still life.

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