Following the lukewarm reception of his large paintings in 1927, Sternen once again began to devote himself intensively to the nude. At exhibitions in Jakopič’s Art Pavilion and in Prague in 1927 he showed the pre-war paintings Corset, Resting Nude (called Semi-Nude in Prague!) and The Mask, while those from the interwar period are thought to have included Study (from the National Gallery), Nude and Semi-Nude.
Under pressure to repay outstanding home loans, with his wife Roza Klein Sternen seriously considering letting their house and moving the family into a rented flat, Sternen cast around for inspiration for a new painting that would, above all, be saleable. In this period he took a series of photographs of nudes using two different models posed in front of Dalmatian altarpieces, paintings and even his own unfinished painting At the Mirror (1927). These can be reliably dated to 1926 or 1927. Two different photographs of a nude in black stockings also date from this time. These are interesting in that, in both of them, Sternen breaks the nude compositionally in a zig-zag line along the cardinal axis towards the eye point. Sternen had been drawn to perspective shortening since his early student days. His first notebook contains several semi-nudes in such positions. He was able to explore the question more seriously with the help of the models at Ažbe’s school. The innovative mid-1920s nudes of Gojmir Anton Kos probably prompted him to turn his attention back to this genre.
Sternen’s Reclining Female Nude in black stockings represents a step in this direction. The shortening of the legs from the knees downwards is a continuation of the stylistic formula employed in At the Mirror (1926). The painting is executed with short strokes of a drained brush in an automatic rhythm of paint applications. The black of the stockings is both subordinate to and enhanced by the complementary contrast of red and green. One would not object if someone were to describe the painting as unfinished. Art historian Tomaž Brejc pointed out how mainstream and modern the photograph seems in comparison to the painting. Of the latter he wrote: “In Sternen’s painting, however, regressive painterliness weakens in intensity and inhabits a stylistically undefined space between the Impressionistic tradition and the refined New Objectivity of the 1920s.” After this work, Sternen would begin mass-producing small-format paintings, usually on plywood, that could more easily be converted into money.