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Ramadan & Eternal Child – Irma Stern Essay

Irma was fascinated with the Arab culture of East Africa and she frequently visited Zanzibar. Ramadan is considered a key painting in Irma’s career. She began depicting beauty in the atmosphere of the painting, rather than the external image of the subject matter. This work shows an elderly Arabic man sitting hunched over and praying. We see how calm and peaceful the Islamic man remains even though he sit amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy bazaar. Irma displays a feeling of spirituality & wisdom, as the man is shown as aged. The focal point is the old man’s white turban, and the large form of his body.

The vertical composition of this work gives off the sense of strength. The foreground is mainly composed of the man’s body while the background is full of unidentifiable shapes representing the busy market crowds. The figures in this work are strongly outlined. Tonal values have been simplified, and natural, neutral colours have been used, which is rare due to Irma’s usual preference to bright, lucid use of colour. Loose, quick brush strokes have been used, connecting Irma’s work to that of an Expressionist.

The Eternal Child, 1916
This work was one of very few with the subject of children that Irma painted. After her divorce in 1934 she showed very little maternal instinct in her artworks. The Eternal Child was the first painting that Irma did that clearly showed the change in her style of painting, and was done with oil paints on board. It shows her individualistic way of capturing the subject matter, which, in this case, is a young girl. Irma spotted this girl on German train, and she painting this figurative artwork from memory.

This way she could interpret reality however she liked. Max Pechstein greatly applauded this work as he saw that the painting could evoke strong emotions and reactions from the viewer. The girl’s large head and small body indicates fragility, as do her small hands grasping flowers. Irma is showing the damage of war on the youth. Children are defenseless and afraid, yet hope glimmers in their eyes. The young girl’s eyes are wide and hopeful, as are the bright flowers. The focal point of The Eternal Child is the pink, founded face of the girl. The tonal values of the painting greatly contrast, and the background colour is flat giving the work a lack of depth. In fact, all the colours in the work are flat leading the painting to be seen as two-dimensional, though the detail of the face does have depth.

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