Strauss & Co presents works owned by Matthys Strydom, art dealer and storyteller extraordinaire

18 Nov 2022

Matthys Strydom (1935-2022), the legendary George art dealer whose survey collection of 20th-century South African painting goes on sale in Cape Town on Tuesday, 22 November 2022, was a committed storyteller.

Witty and knowledgeable, Strydom published two conversational books about his encyclopaedic collection of art. The stories they contain reveal the passion, intellect and dogged persistence he invested in acquiring the works being presented by Strauss & Co in its single-owner presentation of the Property of Dr Matthys Strydom Family Collection.

One particular story relates to Irma Stern’s Pondo Woman with Pipe (estimate R2.5 – 3.5 million), a portrait of an AmaMpondo woman drawing smoke from a traditional long-stemmed pipe. Strydom tells how his neighbour, a church minister in Heidelberg near Johannesburg, had acquired the work on terms from the artist and proudly displayed it in the parsonage’s lounge. Strydom later acquired the work from the dominee’s daughter. He too negotiated instalment terms with the seller.

The landscape genre features strongly in the Strydom Family Collection, with fine examples by Gregoire Boonzaier, Pranas Domsaitis, Maggie Laubser, Erik Laubscher, Hugo Naudé, Ruth Prowse, Fred Schimmel, Nita Spilhaus, JEA Volschenk, Jean Welz and Pieter Wenning. Boonzaier was the first living artist of consequence that Strydom met during his long journey as a collector. The Strydom Collection includes 14 oils, notably the old Cape scenes Yellow Neighbourhood, Bo-Kaap (estimate R250 000 – 300 000).

Composed of nearly 300 lots of modern, post-war and contemporary art, the Strydom Family Collection includes two bushveld landscapes by J. H. Pierneef from the 1940s. Strydom acquired Pierneef’s Bosveldbomme/ Bushveld Trees (estimate and R2 – 3 million) in 1972 following protracted negotiations with the seller, his former English teacher at Hoërskool Outeniqua. Bosveldboomlandskap/ Bushveld Landscape with Trees (estimate R1.8 – 2.4 million) was acquired from a seller in Klein Brak River, who, Strydom tells, used the proceeds to save the family’s struggling service station in Mossel Bay.

Strydom’s fireside stories frequently allow for humour and profundity. Alexis Preller’s 1965 composition The Poet (estimate R800 000 – 1.2 million) was originally titled The Prophet but was renamed by its previous owner, celebrated poet Ernest van Heerden. Poets, Van Heerden told Strydom, are also prophets. Acquired by Strydom in 1995 after it failed to sell at his eponymous gallery, Stanley Pinker’s enigmatic triptych Nightscape (estimate R300 000 – 500 000) fascinated Strydom for decades. “The content is inexhaustible,” he wrote, offering a larger insight into his fine collection.

The Strydom Family Collection will be presented in two instalments. Strauss & Co will introduce 200 works with broad collector appeal in a timed-online sale starting at 2pm on 22 November 2022. At 7pm on the same day, Strauss & Co will host a live-virtual sale of high-value works at the historical manor house of Welgemeend, Gardens, Cape Town. The sale of the Strydom Family Collection is accompanied by a detailed e-catalogue. Works for sale can be previewed at Welgemeend until 22 November 2022.

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