The Easel

23rd March 2021

In search of Irma Stern, whose paintings still embody the contradictions of South Africa

Stern was the classic insider / outsider. She was born in rural South Africa but grew up in Germany. Returning to Capetown after WW1, her modernist style ruffled feathers as did her respectful portraiture of black Africans. After WW2 her acclaim (and white skin) brought support from the Afrikaner government, while she also supported the anti-apartheid cause. Her work, with its contradictory back story, “speaks loudly to our contemporary moment”.

16th March 2021

An Unwitting Monument

“The human body contains histories.” Vienna in 1918 faced hunger, national decline, disease. Schiele’s art triumphed in that year’s Vienna Secessionist exhibition but then, the Spanish flu. Klimt died in February 1918, Schiele’s wife in October, Schiele himself three days later. Five days after that the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed. His last portraits, sparse drawings on scraps of paper, are collectively “an unwitting monument to immense loss”.