Live Virtual Auction, 17 - 18 May 2021
About this Item
Adolph Jentsch was born in Dresden in 1888. He was schooled at the famed Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Max Pechstein, Kurt Schwitters and George Grosz. Unlike these contemporaries, however, who spearheaded major avant-garde movements, Jentsch dedicated himself to a more traditional and introspective style of landscape painting. His flag-bearers were the European Romantics and the Barbizon School, from JMW Turner and Caspar David Friedrich to Théodore Rousseau and Jean- Baptiste-Camille Corot; he was drawn by their devotion to nature, and moved by the ephemeral and fresh qualities of their painting. A parallel influence was Chinese landscape painting, which resonated with his spiritual approach and inspired his calligraphic mark-making.
Shell-shocked by socio-political changes, professionally stifled, and in the wake of the Nazi’s infamous Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich (July to November 1937), Jentsch left Dresden for the then South West Africa, arriving late in February 1938. He was hosted initially by the Dietterle family – acquaintances from Dresden – on their farm called Kleepforte, some 100 km from Windhoek. It goes without saying that the artist was intoxicated by his new surroundings. This early sense of awe is evident in the present lot, Evening Sheepfold, which was perhaps painted in the first weeks after his arrival. It is a dusky, calm and beautiful painting, showing a vast herd of Karakul sheep settling in their stone-walled pen. Their varying pelts of brown, silver and black gently shimmer in the fading light, while the grassland beyond, bleached and dry, stretches towards a range of low hills. The sky is unforgettable: Jentsch paints a shallow arc of graded blues and a luminous pink halo above the horizon.
Jentsch had produced enough major works by that first August to stage an exhibition in the Blue Room of the Grossherzog Hotel in Windhoek (it ran from 8 to 22 September 1938); with the lack of records one can only imagine the present lot on show there. The critic from the local Windhoek Advertiser was certainly impressed: ‘His art is true and deep and takes us away and above the petty routine of our materialism’.1
1. Olga Levinson (1973) Adolph Jentsch, Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, page 42.
Nico Roos (1878) Art in South-West Africa, Pretoria: JP van der Walt, illustrated in black and white on page 132.