IRMA STERN | GRAPE PACKER
signed and dated 1959 (lower left); signed and titled (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
87 by 69cm., 34¼ by 27¼in.
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Structural Condition: The canvas appears unlined. The stretcher does not appear to be original.
Paint Surface: Strong colours and good impasto. Light lines of craqueleure to impasto in places. Most apparent example found within the top of the head of the central figure. These lines are stable.
UV Light: Inspection under UV light reveals no signs of restoration or repair.
Summary: The painting appears to be in excellent and stable condition.
Please note this work is framed.
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The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.
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Christie's, London, Travel & Exploration, 18 April 2000, Lot 92, titled Grape Packers
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Jewish Affairs, Journal, South Africa, June 1959, illustrated in black and white
Irma Stern Scrapbooks (3 vol unpublished), the National Library of South Africa, illustrated and annotated ‘Grape Picker 1959’
Possibly Munich, Galerie Wolfgang Gurlitt, 11 February-7 March 1960, no. 7 Grape Packer
Possibly Johannesburg, Adler Fielding Galleries, Irma Stern solo exhibition, November 1961, no.10 Grape Picker
Grape Packer is another important example of Stern’s mature works from the 1950s and early 60s and her increasing focus on labourers as subjects – orange pickers in Spain, fishermen in urban Cape Town, and here the grape pickers and packers in the Cape Winelands. Stern did not travel out of South Africa in 1959 and, as seen in View Across Vineyard, we know that she would decamp to the winelands east of Cape Town to escape the city and for new inspiration. Indeed perhaps her largest work, the monumental Harvest, or Farm Workers in the Vineyard, tackles a similar subject and hangs in the KWV (Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika) Art Gallery in Paarl.
Figure with bunch of grapes, a gouache in the collection of the Irma Stern Trust (accession no.1068), may well be an early preparatory study for Grape Packer. Both works depict a woman in pink dress and a white headscarf holding a bunch of grapes in both hands, her face turned to the left in side profile, her eyes downcast, focusing on the work at hand. The woman’s gaze is averted from the viewer, as is usual in Stern’s portraiture and figurative painting. Yet Stern has made some significant changes that make the finished painting far more interesting. The grape packer is now more youthful and graceful, and has her baby tied to her back. The infant looks directly at us, in a somewhat playful manner. Stern rarely painted children. After her divorce in 1934, she remained unmarried for the rest of her life and never had children of her own. Her looks and weight were often derided in the press. It is possible that at this stage in her life, as she turned 60 and her health began to fail, she was particularly drawn to such timeless figures of youth and fertility.