19th century, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Jewellery and Wine

Live Virtual Auction, 10 - 11 May 2020

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Paintings Evening Sale

Sold for

ZAR 455 200
Lot 604
  • Walter Battiss; Birds
  • Walter Battiss; Birds
  • Walter Battiss; Birds
  • Walter Battiss; Birds
  • Walter Battiss; Birds
  • Walter Battiss; Birds

Lot Estimate
ZAR 300 000 - 500 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 455 200

About this Item

South African 1906-1982


oil on board
40 by 60cm excluding frame; 47 by 67,5 by 4cm including frame


Birds recur as a fond subject in a number of drawings, prints, canvas paintings and tapestries by Walter Battiss. A skilled draughtsman capable of fine realistic depictions, Battiss nonetheless shunned the precision of encounter favoured by celebrated bird artists like John James Audubon and Edward Lear. His mature work translated the techniques of local rock painters, which Battiss in 1945 summarised as “the serenity and dignity of statement made with the machinery of form”.1 The artist’s awareness of birds was primed by his Karoo upbringing and frequent bushveld rambles as an adult, initially to study and archive rock art at various sites across Southern Africa, and in later years on camping trips in the Limpopo Valley. “Sometimes in the bush,” Battiss wrote in 1965, “the world is full of birds. The sky is merely space between the birds, trees cease to exist as trees but as spaces in between birds.”2 This lot offers a fine distillation of his enraptured wonder at the bush and its avian inhabitants. The rich abundance of bird life described in this lot is also typical of his mature style, of presenting animal and/or human subjects in multitudes on flattened planes framed by vibrant colours. The watery colour palette, coupled with the dominance of flamingos and saddle-billed storks (recognisable by their dappled plumage and red bill with a black band), suggests a riverine setting. Scenes depicting birds form an important component of the artist’s output; the Pretoria Art Museum, Sasol Art Collection and Johannesburg Art Gallery all hold examples.


  1. Walter Battiss, quoted in text panel (WBC/08/01, 1945) at exhibition “The Origins of Walter Battiss: Another Curious Palimpsest”, Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2016.
  2. Walter Battiss (1965) Limpopo, Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik, page 17.


Acquired from the artist by the current owner's grandmother and thence by descent.


View all Walter Battiss lots for sale in this auction

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