Laub­ser’s bold, sim­ple works fi­nally find glory

• Shunned by lo­cal crit­ics for her ex­pres­sion­is­tic style, 1920s artist re­treated to paint farm life

Business Day - - AUCTIONS -

Mag­gie Laub­ser’s por­trait of a Cape shep­herd wear­ing two pea­cock feathers in his hat leads a strong selec­tion of lots by this im­por­tant ex­pres­sion­ist painter, due to go on of­fer at Strauss & Co’s Oc­to­ber 16 live sale at the Vine­yard Ho­tel, Cape Town.

The Old Shep­herd, which has an es­ti­mate price of R2.8m to R3.4m, is an im­por­tant por­trait from Laub­ser’s years of self­im­posed iso­la­tion fol­low­ing her re­turn from Ber­lin in 1924.

Laub­ser’s in­no­va­tive ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ing style was mer­ci­lessly per­se­cuted in the South African press when she be­gan ex­hibit­ing after com­ing home.

The neg­a­tive re­cep­tion prompted Laub­ser to re­treat to her fam­ily farm, Oort­mans­pos, out­side Cape Town, where she im­mersed her­self in por­tray­ing farm life.

Among her sub­jects was a shep­herd named Ou Booi. In a 1956 in­ter­view, Laub­ser re­called that he was orig­i­nally from Bloem­fontein and wore an os­trich feather in his hat.

In the por­trait The Old Shep­herd, Laub­ser am­pli­fies this de­tail to of­fer a vivid ren­der­ing of a self-pos­sessed man with whom the artist was fa­mil­iar and held in re­spect.

Laub­ser is known for her por­trayal of farm labour­ers and an­i­mals. Cats and ducks were among her pre­ferred an­i­mal sub­jects.

A Black and White Cat Seated Amongst Flow­ers (es­ti­mated at R800,000 to R1.2m) is a late work and por­trays a cat with dis­tinc­tive green eyes against a back­drop of brightly coloured plants, in­clud­ing an arum lily.

The bold com­po­si­tion, which bears out the artist’s stated search for “har­mony of colour and form”, may have been drawn from real life; Laub­ser had a black cat. Through­out her ca­reer, Laub­ser painted birds, in­clud­ing flamingoes and gulls at Langebaan and storks in the Free State.

Much like A Black and White Cat Seated Amongst Flow­ers, Laub­ser’s Yel­low Bird (es­ti­mate R500,000 to R700,000) show­cases her painterly skill at in­te­grat­ing an­i­mal sub­jects into con­fi­dently de­scribed land­scapes re­duced to es­sen­tial forms.

Strauss & Co is also of­fer­ing two flo­ral stud­ies, Still Life of Pink Flow­ers in a Glass Vase (es­ti­mate R300,000 to R400,000) and Still Life with Lilies in a Vase Green (es­ti­mate R120,000 to R160,000).

The former work is signed and dated 1924, the year Laub­ser re­turned to her home coun­try


from Ber­lin pos­sessed of a new vi­sion for paint­ing.

Por­trait of a Girl in a Head­scarf (es­ti­mate R40,000 to R60,000) is a char­coal study of a young woman and shows Laub­ser’s un­com­pli­cated graphic ap­proach. Art critic FL Alexan­der said in 1962, that there was a “straight­for­ward sim­plic­ity” to Laub­ser’s draw­ings and it re­mains en­dear­ing.

All these works will be on of­fer at Strauss & Co’s live sale at the Vine­yard Ho­tel on Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 16. A pro­gramme of so­cial events and ed­u­ca­tional lec­tures pref­aces the sale.

Flock and role: .Mag­gie Laub­ser’s por­trait of a raff­ish Cape shep­herd is due to go on of­fer at Strauss & Co’s Oc­to­ber 16 live sale at the Vine­yard Ho­tel, Cape Town.

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