Art Rooted in Nature: A Celebration of South African Art inspired by the Natural World

19 Jun 2024

Cape Town – Strauss & Co is pleased to announce Art Rooted in Nature, a two-part auction that celebrates the profound connection South African artists have with the natural world. The auction showcases a rich medley of artworks aimed to celebrate nature in all its forms. Both the online-only Day Sale and virtual-live Evening Sale auction conclude on Tuesday, 25 June 2024.

“Our selection for this themed auction underscores the enduring relevance of nature in art,” says Leigh Leyde, Head of Sale, Strauss & Co. “South African artists have long drawn inspiration from the earth, capturing the beauty and complexity of flora and landscapes. The works on offer include botanical depictions, landscapes, coastal scenes, floral still lifes and garden scenes from the Cape and beyond.”

A notable highlight of the sale is William Kentridge’s large-scale colour etching Reeds (estimate R800 000 – 1.2 million / $43 347 – 65020), a landscape scene reminiscent of Johannesburg’s southern peri-urban fringes. Printed by Jack Shirreff and Andrew Smith at 107 Workshop and published by David Krut Fine Art, London, this ambitious work is part of a highly collectible series of Shirreff-printed etchings.

In 1995, Kentridge worked on a series of landscape drawings based on engravings illustrating the accounts of European explorers to Africa. He was interested in the translations and geographic dislocations that occur as explorers’ sketches were transformed into engravings by professionals in London. These images then returned to South Africa and appeared in second-hand bookshops in Johannesburg. Reeds was derived from a detail of one such engraving.

Nic Bladen’s botanical sculpture Bulbophyllum (estimate R70 000 – 90,000 / $3 811 – 4 900), exemplifies this Cape Town artist’s innovation in botanical art using the lost-wax casting technique to delicately fossilize flowers and whole plants. Many of these plants are representative of the UNESCO-recognized Cape Floral Region, the smallest yet richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms. Baden’s work was commissioned for the Endangered Cape Orchid Project, an initiative to repopulate key areas of the Western Cape with endangered orchid species.

“These works delve into the intricate relationship between the natural world and artistic expression, highlighting contemporary ecological concerns,” adds Leigh Leyde. “Phillip Grieves’ botanical watercolours of butterflies, which transcend scientific accuracy, further illustrate the harmony between scientific precision and artistic creativity.”

The sale also features works by a quartet of revered modernists: Maggie Laubscher, JH Pierneef, Alexis Preller and Irma Stern. Still Life with Irises and Anemones (estimate R3.5 – 4 million / $190 533 – 217 752) showcases Irma Stern’s technical prowess and formal daring with colour, pattern and surface. A dedicated gardener as well as voracious collector, Stern frequently produced eruptive flower pieces incorporating objects – books, vases, votive sculptures – from her collection. An important site of technical innovation, particularly from the 1930s onwards, these flower pieces are now rated as some of her most sumptuous and sensual images. Strauss & Co is delighted to feature a selection of works curated by Intethe Gallery, Hermanus. Established in 2015 by Barbara Lindop, a prominent figure in Southern African art, the gallery brings together artists who create relevant artistic commentary on contemporary sociopolitical concerns. The selection includes works by Tracy Algar, Marian Binder, Lucy Stuart Clark, Paula Dubois, Amos Letsoalo, Gcina Sam Maduna, Sfiso Ka Mkame, Shepherd Ndudzo, Anitra Nettleton, Herman van Nazareth, Mzuzile Xakaza and Kristin Hua Yang.  “These artists, united in their common purpose, create relevant artistic commentary on contemporary sociopolitical concerns,” says Barbara Lindop. “Their work is poetic, powerful and thought-provoking. The auction presents pieces that explore global warming, cultural practices, the beauty of the natural world and its spirituality, political commentary and the celebration of humanity.”


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