Rare botanical art and new contemporary paintings among highlights of Strauss & Co’s June sale
25 May 2021
Strauss & Co’s forthcoming June sale of modern, post-war and contemporary art, decorative arts and wine includes an impressive line up of paintings from two important corporate collections, one offering a unique overview of Cape winemaking and its traditions, the other gathering an important grouping of South African women botanical artists.
Due to commence on Monday, 31 May, the timed online-only sale includes a substantial offering of art, including important photos and ceramics, as well as a themed wine session that focuses on Stellenbosch’s best producers. The online sale concludes on Monday, 7 June 2021 at 8pm.
Strauss & Co is very fortunate to be offering an important single-owner collection of botanical paintings and prints by some of the most significant South African women botanical artists, including Thalia Lincoln, Auriol Batten, Barbara Jeppe and Gill Condy, who was the resident artist at the South African Biodiversity Institute in Pretoria from 1982 until her recent retirement. The selection of botanical art has been de-accessioned from a major financial institution’s corporate collection as part of a strategic repositioning towards contemporary art and will be offered in a dedicated session.
A particular highlight of the botanical art session is the 11 original watercolours by Ellaphie Ward-Hillhorst produced for the 1994 monograph on the aloe-like genus Gasteria written by Ernst van Jaarsveld, an internationally recognized expert in the field of succulents. This collaboration between botanist and artist was a significant milestone in botanical publishing in South Africa at the time. Other notable lots include Auriol Batten’s striking Scadoxus puniceus, commonly known as the paintbrush lily (estimate R3 000 – 5 000), and three beautifully rendered depictions of irises by Barbara Jeppe (estimate R 3 000 – 5000 each).
Following on from the successful April sale of a tranche of works de-accessioned from the KWV Collection – highlights of which included Cecil Skotnes’ hand-carved and incised panel piece The Origin of Wine/The Epic of Gilgamesh, sold for R910 400 – Strauss & Co is pleased to offer a further consignment of works from this collection of post-war paintings rooted in the Cape region, its landscapes, people and industries.
The KWV Collection includes Carl Büchner’s Red Interior (estimate R35 000 – 50 000), one of two oils by this romantic humanist and student of Maurice van Essche. Fifteen drawings and watercolours by François Krige variously depict winemaking operations, such as ploughing and picking, as well as Cape landscapes. Other artists represented in this consignment include David Botha, Herbert Coetzee, Llewellyn Davies, Pranas Domsaitis, Zakkie Eloff, Amos Langdown, Kobus Louw, Alexander Rose-Innes, Edward Roworth and Gordon Vorster.
Reviewing the art offering in the forthcoming sale, Wilhelm van Rensburg, head curator and senior art specialist at Strauss & Co, has identified a number of pieces by contemporary artists worthy of consideration by collectors. They include Sam Nhlengethwa’s 2005 collage on paper, Woman with Basket (estimate R30 000 – 50 000), and five recent watercolours by Colbert Mashile. Painted in 2020, the watercolours (estimate R5 000 – 8000 each) feature a vibrant palette and represent a new departure from Mashile’s earlier initiation subject matter – three fine examples dated circa 2007-08 are also included in this sale (estimate R15 000 – 24 000 each).
Johannesburg-based Samson Mnisi’s 2013 work, Abstract Composition in Red (estimate R30 000 – 50 000), presents a quirky combination of abstract expressionism and traditional African scarification marks. Durban-born Louis Maqhubela, now aged 82 and living in London, is an important figure in the early development of an indigenous abstraction, and is represented in the sale by Abstract Composition with Birds (estimate R5 000 – 7 000), a chalk pastel and charcoal work from 1968. Strauss & Co is delighted to offer four hardwood sculptures by Michael Zondi made circa 1978-82. They include Two Figures (estimate R8 000 – 12 000 each), an elongated figure work in the style of Zondi’s Calabash (1963), first shown at the 1966 Venice Biennale.
Santu Mofokeng’s Paul Dintshi and Child: Sunday at a Shebeen (estimate R20 000 – 30 000) leads the photography selection. This important portrait was taken at Vaalrand Farm, Bloemhof, circa 1988, during Mofokeng’s association with the African Studies Institute at Wits University. Other contemporary photographers featured in this sale are Jane Alexander, Pieter Hugo and David Lurie.
Strauss & Co’s focus on modern and contemporary ceramics continues with a selection of works by celebrated makers Juliet Armstrong, John Newdigate, Hyme Rabinowitz, Clementina van der Walt and the collective at Rorke’s Drift. Newdigate’s Birds in Foliage (estimate R15 000 – 20 000) is a large porcelain dish decorated with his characteristic bird designs. Armstrong’s Ingcayi (estimate R15 000 – 20 000) is a very fragile porcelain depiction of a ceremonial cowhide pregnancy apron that includes gold leaf detailing.
Walter Battiss is a stalwart of Strauss & Co auctions and is represented in the forthcoming sale by delightful works connected to his Fook Island period. They include a bronze Fook coin (estimate R5 000 – 7 000) and two Fook T-shirts (estimate R2 000 – 3 000). The sale also includes a number of Battiss screenprints, notable among them Liza (estimate R12 000 – 16 000). A number of Battiss associates and collaborators are also represented. They include Carl Büchner (Harlequin Boy, estimate R8 000 – 12 000), Norman Catherine (two posters, estimate R3 000 – 5 000 each), Braam Kruger (two lots of artist and model drawings, estimate R3 000 – 4 000 each) and Rupert Shephard (Landscape, estimate R6 000 – 8 000).
“Büchner taught with Battiss at the Pretoria Art Centre for a decade, until 1954, and Shephard was a good friend of Battiss in the 1950s,” says Wilhelm van Rensburg. “Battiss and Shephard often exchanged works, like artists often do. Kruger, a maverick artist and culinary chef later in life, befriended Battiss as a young man in the 1970s, and like Battiss, was a compulsive drawer.”
Also worth noting in the sale is a selection of lots by Wolf Kibel, Charles Gassner, Judith Mason and Fred Page, all handled by legendary Cape Town dealer Joe Wolpe. They include Mason’s 1966 charcoal and pencil drawing Caryatid (estimate R7 000 – 9 000). Strauss & Co’s June sale will be held exclusively online and commences on Monday, 31 May, and concludes on Monday, 7 June 2021 at 8pm.
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