Updated 4 Nov 2016
Irma Steyn was born in Schweizer-Reneke in 1894 of German-Jewish parents and grew up in the area. She studied in Germany in 1913 at the Wiemar Academy where she came into contact with expressionism through the works of artists such as Max Pechstein. On her return to South Africa, her colourful 'overcrowded' works soon became strong personifications of the African rhythm that later became the model in boldness of expression for later artists. Her work allowed little room for gray or dark shadows, but rather reflected the bright blue African sky, red sunsets, gold and brown.
Steyn liked visiting 'exotic' places in Africa, such as Zanzibar Island, which led to works like Golden Shawl. This is but one of many examples of the boldness and importunity of stroke used by this artist so that the spirit of the form, whether man or nature, would come alive. However, despite her urge to travel, which helped her to develop both as a person and an artist, her domicile still remained the North-West Province, from which her passion for art was born. For most of her paintings, she preferred to use African crafted wood as frames. Irma Stern was probably one of the most productive South African artists ever. During her career as a painter stretching over 50 years, she held 99 exhibitions. The Irma Steyn Museum was established in 1971 in the house where she lived for many years. Her paintings now command among the highest prices paid for works by South African artists.