Irma Stern had been a friend of the Expressionist artist Max Pechstein during her years living in Germany and was a member of the avant-garde there. There was little understanding of her boldly modern work in South Africa on her return, but Rebecca Reyher, on a visit there, was immediately struck by it and brought a number of Stern's paintings back with her to New York.
Rebecca Reyher, the daughter of a Russian lawyer Isaac Hourwich and his second wife Elizabeth Joffe, was a writer and feminist campaigner. A veteran of the first national suffrage parade in Washington D.C. in 1913, her life would be devoted to the fight for women's rights. After studying at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, she worked for the National Woman's Party in New York and nationwide, married fellow writer Ferdinand Reyher in 1917 (divorcing in 1934 and remaining single for the rest of her life), and went on her first of many trips to Africa in 1924, commissioned to write articles on the country for Hearst's International Magazine.
The highlight of her researches on the local art scene would be her discovery of Irma Stern's work, which, in Rehyer's words captured 'all the colour, the wildness, the passion and the peace of your country'. The discovery of Stern's work, and her subsequent meeting with Stern and her household, led to her being invited to open Stern's second Cape Town exhibition in February 1925, and to a brief and intense friendship, which is marked by the present portrait.
Reyher, who had been away from Cape Town on her travels within South Africa from November 1924 until 12 February 1925, must have sat for the portrait between 13-16 February, prior to it's inclusion in the Ashbey's Art Gallery, Exhibition of Modern Art by Miss Irma stern which opened on 17 February 1925.
Please refer to the supplementary Irma Stern catalogue for additional information.