Irma Stern Museum
Among the smallest, most intimate art galleries in Cape Town, the Irma Stern museum allows visitors to share in the passion of the artist whose works are collected here in the home where she lived for four decades. Irma Stern (1894-1966) achieved international recognition during her lifetime but was initially maligned in her own country, with one early critic panning her work as part of a ‘cult of ugliness’. Today she’s revered as a major South African artist and the museum was established posthumously under the auspices of the University of Cape Town in 1971. The curators have maintained several rooms just as Stern would have kept them (upstairs rooms are used for temporary exhibitions – for-sale by contemporary artists) and everywhere you look there is evidence of her desire to create, comment, and respond to the world around her. A relentless artist who typically completed each work in a single sitting, under the influence of nicotine and caffeine, she worked in a variety of media – not only on canvas, but also through sculpture and ceramics – and her work covers a gamut of themes, from portraits of African tribal women to landscapes. The museum also shows off her fascinating collection of artefacts – from tribal masks to Buddhist art, Coptic weavings, and other religious art. And in her studio, apparently untouched since her death, are Stern’s palettes, paint-box and brushes, as well the personal displays with which she chose to surround herself in her working environment.