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.