General Essay on Erma Stern and Gerard Sekoto in a South African context

Essay by grapey666High School, 12th gradeB, March 2002

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Stern was extremely influenced by the style of Post-Impressionists, Fauves, and Expressionists, especially by Max Pechstein of Die Brücke. The work that reflects this was produced when she was still in Germany, and was based on expressionist communication. Contrasting with German Expressionism, her travels through Africa were also highly influential, as well as the mementoes she acquired. The "savagery of the landscape and of the people, of snakes, wild birds and tropic vegetation" were extremely important. Different African Cultures such as Pondo women, Watusi peoples with slender, long necks, Muslim women in finery and Malay women were of great importance. Stern was highly influenced by primitive art, mainly by the relics and artifacts of ancient African cultures.

"Pondo Woman" is typical of Stern's characteristics regarding subject matter, as it is a portrait of a woman from another culture. Stern emphasizes the contrast between Western and African tradition, but has focused on an image of life and beauty.

Her painting is fresh, spontaneous and immediate. She has neglected traditional techniques of space, and her composition is crowded. The painting is not very structured as there is not much depth in the background, and the woman is positioned in the foreground. Her brushstrokes are visible, as she has made use of thick paint and there is a vivid combination of line and colour. The palette that she has used is intense, extravagant and warm, but is also limited. Stern incorporates a wide variety of textures, and there are decorative elements in her work.

Stern is regarded as an important painter in the history of South African art as she was extremely controversial and went against traditional ways of painting. She was able to translate observation and feeling into her paintings, and expressed herself impulsively in vigorously executed drawings, which capture...