Irma Stern's Mangbetu woman will 'make waves' at $800,000

Bonhams is expecting Irma Stern to "make waves" at its South African Art sale on October 17, when her Mangbetu Woman Carrying Fruit leads a collection of her works.

Irma Stern Mangbetu Woman Carrying Fruit
Stern's visit to Congo "produced a body of painting of extraordinary vigour"

Stern is South Africa's leading artist and became one of the top five women in the art world when her Arab Priest sold for £3m at Bonhams' South African Art sale in 2011. Another strong result came from Stern's The Pink Sari, which sold for £959,650 at Bonhams in March.

Mangbetu woman carrying fruit was first acquired directly from Stern by the current owner around 1944-1945. It was inspired by her visit to the Congo in 1942, which provided both adventure and fresh subjects from which she could work. A vibrant and sensuous piece, it is expected to bring between £500,000 and £800,000 in London.

One of South Africa's leading artists and critics, Neville Dubow, commented: "In the Congo [Irma Stern] found a society whose primary needs were still met to a degree by the work of the artist/craftsman; and she responded to this first-hand encounter with creative tribal functionalism with a fundamental creativity of her own. She produced a body of painting of extraordinary vigour and decorative control."

Also featuring will be Stern's Portrait of Vera Poppe - the celebrated cellist who was known for her dazzling performances in Chicago, New York and London.

Stern was inspired to paint Poppe, who is of Russain descent but was born in Cape Town, when she returned to South Africa to perform at the home of Ben and Cecilia Jaffe. Depicting the intensity of the concert through Poppe's facial expression, the piece represents a transition in Stern's work, yet is a superb and characteristic representation of her trademark style. It will auction with a £200,00-300,000 estimate.

We are currently offering a brilliant handwritten letter from the celebrated French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir as well as a rare autographed postcard from Pablo Picasso.

See more of our investment-grade artworks here.

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