Live Virtual Auction, 10 - 11 May 2020
Important announcement regarding the terms and conditions of this auction.
This auction is being conducted during a National State of Disaster in South Africa and in accordance with the various Regulations passed by the Government in South Africa in response. Presently, South Africa’s National State of Disaster is at Level 4, which limits certain commercial activity. Read More →
Terms and Conditions for Online Auctions (517.08 KB)
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
About this Item
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.
- 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.
- 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.