A painting by South African artist Irma Stern is due to be sold by the Oxford Department for International Development (ODID), with proceeds from the sale being used to fund scholarships for African students to attend the university.
‘Portrait of a young Mpondo’ will be sold at Bonhams Auction House in London, with the expectation that it is worth between £200,000 and £300,000.
It is described on the Bonhams website as being “characterised by precocious and rich brushwork, exuding sensuality and physicality”.
“The somewhat unusual colour palette of ethereal blues and purples is more typical of one of Stern’s still life paintings than her portraits, and testifies to her versatility as an expressionist and her unencumbered artistic vision of colour.”
The portrait was painted in South Africa in 1935 and has been held by the International Development department since the 1950s, when it was gifted by Lady Caroline Oppenheimer.
Caroline was the wife of Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, the benefactor who enabled the establishment of Queen Elizabeth House, the precursor to the Oxford Department of International Development. The decision to sell the painting was taken by the department in consultation with the university.
‘This wonderful Stern portrait of a young African warrior has hung on our walls for many years and it will be sad to let it go.”
“The resources from the sale will make a significant contribution to the lives of young scholars,” said ODID’s Professor Valpy FitzGerald.
The auction will take place amongst a wide collection of South African art on 17th October, and a representative for the Department for International Development has stated that they hope to see the first scholar benefitting from this to arrive in October 2013.
David Messling, OUSU Access Representative commented:
“It’s great to see new and exciting ways of tackling the lack of graduate funding. These scholarships won’t just change the lives of the scholars, but also have the potential to generate research with a much bigger impact.”