Irma Stern 'Zulu Woman' art could top $0.9m estimate in London auction

Irma Stern is regarded as being South Africa's leading artist, and has also led the way as the country's artworks bring increasingly large values at the world's top auction houses.

Stern's Arab Priest is among the artist's past big sellers. It brought £3m, well above its £600,000 presale estimate, in a London art auction last year.

Now a Bonhams auction is set to offer another potential blockbuster Stern art piece.

Zulu Woman was painted in 1935 when Irma Stern was at the height of her creative powers as South Africa's pre-eminent artist.

The rare artwork is estimated to sell for £400,000 to £600,000 ($941,664).

It will certainly resonate with collectors and enthusiasts the world over, being an iconic depiction of African womanhood from one of the country's leading tribes.

The history of Zulus remains central to Southern Africa's cultural heritage. The nation's current president, Jacob Zuma, was himself born a Zulu.


Zulu woman 410.jpg
Irma Stern's Zulu Woman was painted in 1935

In its presale release, Bonhams suggests that Irma Stern "is one of the five most highly sought after female artists in the world."

Zulu Woman was acquired by the current seller's father in Johannesburg between 1946-1950, says Bonhams.

"One of the really exciting things about fine art auctioneering is the way in which you get to see trends developing," said Giles Peppiatt, Director of South African Art at Bonhams.

"The last five years has seen a virtual revolution in the assessment of South African art with prices reaching into the multi millions for the first time.

"The most consistent trend during this time is the pre-eminence of Irma Stern. And that is for a very good reason. She was the first European trained painter to depict African scenes in a way that was demonstrably African.

"You could argue that she actually helped to create a new kind of art - painted by whites but with an African aesthetic," commented Peppiatt.

Watch this space for more news on rare and collectible South African art.

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