Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art

Johannesburg  |  3:00pm Mon 20 May 2019


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Lot 271

South African 1906-1982
Hadhramaut, Portfolio of 41 Ink Drawings
most signed, some dated, and all inscribed with the title in the margin; portfolio cover signed and date Dec. 1964; signed with the artist's initials and inscribed with '41 to Murray 16.1.76' and 'First drawing is upside down'
ink on paper secured between cardboard covers
each 35,5 by 43cm

Sold for R 200 000
Including Buyer's Premium and VAT R 227 600

Estimate R 200 000 - 300 000

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Walter Battiss visited the Persian Gulf and the island of Bahrain in the early 1960s, only managing to view the Hadhramaut, the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, from the aeroplane window. Southern Yemen (formerly Aden, a British Protectorate) cast a spell over the artist and he managed to gain entry into the Hadhramaut some years later, visiting the area for three weeks in late 1964, early 1965. He set himself the task of recording his impressions of this country in the form of a series of ink drawings, possibly the first Western artist ever to do so. He described the coastal towns as ‘magical, almost like pink and green alabaster, backed by rose-green mountains’. Battiss traversed this enchanting area, sketching the major coastal towns of Mukalla, Saiyun, and Shihr and the surrounding areas.

After his return to Pretoria, Battiss gave an illustrated talk about his visit. He spoke of his curiosity about the mystique of the desert, the scents and smells in the heat, and the rhythm of the local Bedouin. He said: ‘Who wants to talk of a lovesickness for the desert that must be thought of and felt without words, with silences for nouns and breathing for verbs’.1 These drawings certainly leave one in complete awe of the beauty of the Hadhramaut, seen through the artist’s eyes.

1. Walter Battiss, quoted in Murray Schoonraad (1985) Battiss in the Hadhramaut: Sketches of Southern Arabia. Pretoria: Elmur Publications, page 7.

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