A rare painting of an Omani man by South African artist Irma Stern fetched more than one million dollars in an auction, according to Oman’s embassy in South Africa.
Irma Stern was a South African artist, whose expressive portraits rendered in saturated colours were among her most widely known pieces. The painter and sculptor traveled throughout Africa to capture not only likenesses but also landscapes that are unique to the continent. She had said “it is only through personal contact that one can get a few glimpses into the hidden depths of the primitive and childlike yet rich soul of the native, and this soul is what I try to reflect in my pictures of South Africa.”
Born on October 2, 1894 in Schweizer-Reneke, South Africa, Stern moved to Berlin to study art during World War I. In 1916, she had her first solo show with the help of German painter Max Pechstein, and her exposure to Expressionism would figure heavily as an influence on her career. Her work was not well received upon her return, but eventually drew acclaim and she is considered one of the foremost South African artists. Stern died on August 23, 1966 in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1971, her home—known as “The Firs”—was made the Irma Stern Museum by the University of Cape Town.
The painting (right) is of an Omani man dressed in traditional garments of Saidi Musar, Dishdasha and Bisht.
According to the South African Omani embassy, “The painting dates back to the reign of Sultan Khalifa bin Harib bin Thwaini Al Said and was painted on the island of Zanzibar in 1939.”
The painting was sold after ‘fierce bidding’ at an auction in Cape Town on March 18, for South African Rand 17,070,000 ( $ 1.38m).
This edited article first appeared in Times of Oman.