Live Auction, 12 November 2018
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About this Item
Frans Oerder arrived in Pretoria in 1890 from Rotterdam. In 1899, and at the request of President Paul Kruger, he joined the Boer cause as an official war artist. Apart from sketching Boer positions in the field, the artist produced a fine group of British portraits while interned as a prisoner of war at Meintjeskop. After his release he travelled up the east coast of Africa, producing a small but remarkable body of exotic, sultry-aired vignettes characterised by torn banana fronds; crumbling, white-washed blockhouses; driftwood lean-tos driven into the sand; beached hulls waiting for the tide; and lithe, dark, slow-moving figures on the rocks. The present lot is a rare addition to this east African group, and catches the artist at the gates of the Forte de São João Batista on Ibo Island in the then Portuguese East Africa (present day Mozambique). A colonial guard, heavy-booted, stands sentry in the shade, while the interior courtyard, only glimpsed through the gates, appears deserted. Oerder spent some time accurately transcribing the inscription on the pediment, which referred to the building of the five-pointed fort by the Portuguese in the late eighteenth century. It served a military role, of course, and played a part in the area’s slave trade.
Oerder, whose trip was cut short by malaria, might be the first on an extraordinary list of twentieth-century artists painting on the African east coast. If the tradition began with him, it was continued impressively by Hugo Naude, Henk Pierneef, Frieda Lock, Irma Stern, Alexis Preller, Terrence McCaw and Walter Battiss.