Stern’s ‘Dahlias’ pick of bunch
● A floral still life by Irma Stern, SA’s foremost painter, is the highlight of Strauss & Co’s bountiful crop of offerings at its spring sale in Cape Town this month. Painted in 1947, Dahlias (estimate R8m to R12m), pictured, is a peak-period Stern depicting a favoured flower.
It claims an impeccable provenance. Originally owned by renowned art collectors Ben and Cecilia Jaffe, Stern’s brilliantly coloured oil was acquired by noted Cape Town collector Count Luccio Labia in 1994 at a sale handled by auctioneer Stephan Welz, who in 2009 helped establish Strauss & Co, now SA’s leading auction house. Part of a consignment of 22 paintings from the Labia family collection, Dahlias exhibits Stern’s masterful brushwork and authoritative handling of paint.
Dahlias were a recurrent subject in Stern’s paintings from the 1930s and 1940s. The artist produced five still lifes featuring these sumptuous cut flowers, of which this painting is the fifth. Dahlias has been characterised by noted Stern scholar Marion Arnold as an “exuberant composition” that bursts “beyond the confines of the frame”.
The intersection of quality and provenance is a hallmark of Strauss & Co’s October sale. The catalogue includes 22 paintings released from the Labia family collection, as well as 20 works in various media from the Peter and Regina Strack collection, notably three rare oils by Adolph Jentsch.
German-born Peter Strack immigrated to Namibia in 1950 and was a partner in the architectural firm Stauch & Partners. He began honing his skills as an artist and collector under the tutelage of Jentsch and principally collected 20th-century Namibian art, notably works by Jentsch, Fritz Krampe and John Muafangejo.
Highlights include Vlei on Farm
Teufelsbach (estimate R600,000 to R800,000), which offers a delightfully verdant view of the Otjihavera River, and Ibenstein, SW Afrika (estimate R600,000 to R700,000), a masterfully achieved night scene in grey.
“Artworks owned by esteemed and visionary collectors are always sought after by newer generations of collectors,” says Bina Genovese, joint MD of Strauss & Co. “Discerning collectors recognise that collecting not only involves connoisseurship but also custodianship, and by owning a work previously held by an important collector they are participating in a lineage of discernment.”
Other notable works from single-owner collections on offer at Strauss & Co’s spring sale include two paintings and two drawings by Stern released by the Irma Stern Trust Collection, as well as four relief paintings by Kenneth Bakker.
Stern’s Castle, Madeira (estimate R2m to R3m) dates from 1963 and depicts the Fort of São João Baptista do Pico with a tropical palette of warm ochres, yellows, pinks and red, offset against a lively sea of emerald green tones.
An earlier portrait, from 1949, Woman with Orange Headscarf (estimate R250,000 to R350,000), pictured, also forms part of the release. Proceeds from the sale of these works will benefit the Irma Stern Trust.
Part of a neglected generation of midcentury abstract painters, Bakker was the first local painter to receive an award at the São Paulo Biennale.
The four Bakker lots date from 1967 to 1980 and include Tidal Pool (estimate R70,000 to R 100,000) and Relief Painting with Construction No 2 (estimate R50,000 to R 70,000), three-dimensional assemblages composed of overlapping sheets of Perspex painted with layers of oilpaint to produce a physically textured surface.
A global leader for South African art, Strauss & Co has sold nine of the 10 most expensive paintings ever auctioned in SA. Stern’s Dahlias (lot 513) will go under the hammer on the evening of Monday October 15 at the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town.
The public can view this important work, along with other works mentioned, from October 12 to 14, from 10am to 5pm.
The sale also includes outstanding examples of jewellery, decorative arts and furniture.
Strauss & Co will also be hosting an extensive programme of public talks and social events in the lead-up to the sale.