Hugo Naudé was the first South African artist to train abroad, spending time between 1888 and 1896 at the Slade School in London, the Kunst Academie in Munich, and with the Barbizon Group in Fontainebleau. Already established as a painter back in the Cape, his homespun impressionism familiar to early-century gallery-goers, he made a second working trip to Europe in 1913, accompanying his nephew on a Grand Tour of sorts. He made memorable paintings on his travels – particularly of Venice – and returned to the Cape down the east coast of Africa. The present lot, a flashy, glittering view of Fort Jesus, was presumably inspired by this voyage. On the southern edge of Mombasa, the Fort, an exceptional example of Renaissance military fortification, and a crucially important base from which its former Portuguese and Arab occupants could control the Indian Ocean trade routes, was under British command when Naudé likely passed.
While the tropical waters shimmer in sunlight, reflecting the sails and brightly painted bows of the bobbing dhows, the walls of the Fort, shadowed and overgrown with vegetation, are painted with thick, luxurious swipes of pink, tangerine and gold. Fort Jesus, Mombassa forms part of a wonderful, overlooked tradition of twentieth-century South African artists painting on the east coast of Africa: Oerder, Stern, Lock, Pierneef, Preller, McCaw and Battiss were all moved by its beauty and exoticism.
Built between 1593 and 1596, Fort Jesus was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.