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Irma Stern Museum
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Irma Stern (1894-1966)


Introduction

Irma Stern was born in 1894 to German Jewish parents at Schweizer- Reneke, a small town in the North West Province of South Africa, where her father established a thriving trading store and cattle farm. Interned during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) because of his pro-Boer sympathies, Irma and her brother were taken by their mother to Cape Town. After his release, the family went to Germany and thus began a pattern of regular travel, which was to characterize her life.

Intermittent periods of her childhood were spent in South Africa, however, the years of the First World War (1914-1918) were based in Germany. Irma Stern decided to become an artist, studying in Berlin and Weimer. Through the support of the Expressionist, Max Pechstein, her first solo exhibition was held in Berlin in 1916, yet on returning permanently to South Africa her work was initially derided.

Irma Stern travelled extensively in Europe and explored Southern Africa, Zanzibar and the Congo. These trips provided a wide range of subject matter for her paintings and gave her opportunities to acquire and assemble an eclectic collection of artefacts for her home.

A house named 'The Firs' in Rosebank, Cape Town, acquired in 1927 remained her home until her death in 1966. This residence became the Irma Stern Museum in 1971. It was established by Trustees of her estate and is administered by the University of Cape Town.




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