From Pierneef to Ken­tridge

• Strauss and Co sale show­cases in­no­va­tion in SA’s fine art scene span­ning three eras in the 20th cen­tury


A por­trait of a raff­ish shep­herd by Mag­gie Laub­ser, a stylised homage to Hierony­mus Bosch by Alexis Preller, two draw­ings of Wil­liam Ken­tridge’s fic­tional al­ter ego and a rare night-sky land­scape by John Meyer, form part of Strauss & Co’s sub­stan­tial of­fer­ing at its forth­com­ing live sale in Cape Town, which will be held at the Vine­yard Ho­tel on Oc­to­ber 16.

The sale, which spans three dis­tinct pe­ri­ods in this coun­try’s art his­tory, fore­grounds how artis­tic in­no­va­tion has been a con­stant of South African art, since the early be­gin­nings of a na­tional tra­di­tion fol­low­ing uni­fi­ca­tion to the worldly present of the post-apartheid years.

The lots on of­fer in­clude im­por­tant pieces by ear­lier 20th-cen­tury mas­ters such as Hugo Naudé, Mag­gie Laub­ser, JH Pierneef and Irma Stern; mid­cen­tury trail­blaz­ers such as Wal­ter Bat­tiss, Peter Clarke, Syd­ney Ku­malo, Erik Laub­scher, Ce­cil Skotnes and Alexis Preller; and glob­ally ac­claimed con­tem­po­rary artists such as Wil­liam Ken­tridge.

“As is a hall­mark of ev­ery Strauss & Co sale, qual­ity is a con­sis­tent marker of the works on of­fer,” says Strauss & Co chair­man Frank Kil­bourn. “The key lots from our Cape Town sale are all de­fin­i­tive ex­am­ples by the artists, and wor­thy of se­ri­ous col­lec­tor in­ter­est.”

Col­lec­tors of JH Pierneef will de­light in the se­lec­tion of botan­i­cals and land­scapes on of­fer. Pierneef was a fore­most painter of trees, as is ev­i­dent in a 1944 oil de­pict­ing a ma­jes­tic lead­wood tree, Hardekool­boom in a Bushveld Land­scape (es­ti­mate R2m-R3m).

An early pas­tel work from 1913, Wil­low Trees in Sum­mer (es­ti­mate R250,000-R350 000), demon­strates Pierneef’s draught­man­ship.

Im­por­tant works by Mag­gie Laub­ser rarely come to mar­ket, so there is jus­ti­fi­able ex­cite­ment around The Old Shep­herd (es­ti­mate R2.8-R3.4m), a strik­ing por­trait of a con­fi­dent herds­man with two pea­cock feath­ers in his hat. A re­cur­ring fig­ure in Laub­ser’s work, the Bloem fontein­born shep­herd worked at the painter’s fam­ily farm, Oort­mans­pos, sit­u­ated north­east of Cape Town.

One of three Laub­ser still lifes on of­fer, A Black and White Cat Seated Amongst Flow­ers (es­ti­mate R800,000-R1.2m), is a late work rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the painter’s quest to por­tray the “spir­i­tual shape” of ob­jects. Yel­low Bird (es­ti­mate R500,000 R700,000), also a late-ca­reer work, con­fi­dently shows the tit­u­lar yel­low bird in­te­grated into an ab­stracted land­scape of lines and shapes.

Rightly cel­e­brated for her botan­i­cal still lifes, Irma Stern is rep­re­sented on Strauss & Co’s sale by Black Lilies (es­ti­mate R2m-R3m), an un­usual flo­ral study from 1941 dom­i­nated by ex­otic black arum lilies.

Pro­duced in 1952, Madonna (es­ti­mate R500,000-R700,000) is a bold ex­pres­sion­is­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tion by Stern of a key icon of Catholi­cism.

An ev­er­green fig­ure at auc­tion, Hugo Naudé’s early im­pres­sion­ist land­scapes of south­ern Africa re­main in high de­mand. Strauss & Co is of­fer­ing a dis­crim­i­nat­ing se­lec­tion of land­scape and ma­rine scenes of Her­manus, Hex River Val­ley, Port St Johns, Vic­to­ria Falls and the Brandwacht Moun­tains in the painter’s na­tive Worces­ter.

The high­light, though, is a daz­zling de­pic­tion of Venice (es­ti­mate R300,000-R500,000) painted on Naudé’s visit to the Ital­ian city in 1913.

“One is re­minded not only of how widely trav­elled was Naudé for an early South African artist, but how bril­liantly var­ied was his tone, his sub­ject and his colour,” says Strauss & Co spe­cial­ist Alas­tair Mered­ith.

MAD­DEN COLE Black Lilies: An Irma Stern paint­ing ex­pected to fetch be­tween R2m and R3m at an auc­tion to be held by Strauss & Co in Cape Town. The sale will take place at the Vine­yard Ho­tel on Oc­to­ber 16.

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