The artist creates in order to become free of himself, only to find himself again in the end
Irma Stern

The Museum, established in 1971, is governed by the University of Cape Town and the Irma Stern Trust. It aims to promote an understanding and appreciation of the life, work and travels of Irma Stern, a major South African artist, by displaying a collection of her art and artefacts in the domestic setting of her home.


The collection shows Irma Stern's development as an artist, who worked as a painter, sculptor and ceramist. Her life-long interest in depicting people is evident in the predominance of portraits and exotic figures interspersed with lush landscapes and vibrant still lifes.


Her two illustrated journals published of travels undertaken in Zanzibar and the Congo vividly convey her experiences, while the private writings in German kept during the period (1917-1933) were translated into English and published posthumously, provide another insight into her personality.


Irma's zest for life expressed in her love of abundant colour is evident everywhere in each of the rooms in which she lived, worked and enjoyed entertaining. Visitors to the museum can experience this uniquely furnished interior when viewing the sitting room, dining room and studio retained in the manner left by the artist.

Irma Stern was born in 1894 to German Jewish parents at Schweizer- Reneke, a small town in the North West Province of South Africa, where her father established a thriving trading store and cattle farm. Interned during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) because of his pro-Boer sympathies, Irma and her brother were taken by their mother to Cape Town. After his release, the family went to Germany and thus began a pattern of regular travel, which was to characterize her life.

Intermittent periods of her childhood were spent in South Africa, however, the years of the First World War (1914-1918) were based in Germany. Irma Stern decided to become an artist, studying in Berlin and Weimer. Through the support of the Expressionist, Max Pechstein, her first solo exhibition was held in Berlin in 1916, yet on returning permanently to South Africa her work was initially derided.

Irma Stern travelled extensively in Europe and explored Southern Africa, Zanzibar and the Congo. These trips provided a wide range of subject matter for her paintings and gave her opportunities to acquire and assemble an eclectic collection of artefacts for her home.

A house named 'The Firs' in Rosebank, Cape Town, acquired in 1927 remained her home until her death in 1966. This residence became the Irma Stern Museum in 1971. It was established by Trustees of her estate and is administered by the University of Cape Town


Contact Us


UCT Irma Stern Museum

"The Firs"

Cecil Road Rosebank Cape Town7700

Telephone (w): 27 (0)21 685 5686

Fax: 27 (0)21 686 7550



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