The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection

Live Virtual Auction, 20 September 2022

The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection
About the Session

Strauss & Co is pleased to present this extraordinary collection as the featured session this September Live Virtual Auction. An established insolvency practitioner with a passion for the arts, Oliver Powell's principal focus has been collecting South African painting, sculpture and works on paper made since 1950. Colour, graphic ingenuity and emotional weight are all attributes in an artwork that Powell is drawn to. Powell also emphasises the importance of his many encounters with artists. “There is so much value in meeting an artist,” says Powell. “Aspects and details of their life are reflected in what and how they paint.”

Sold for

ZAR 54 624
Lot 70
  • Ephraim Ngatane; Sanatorium
  • Ephraim Ngatane; Sanatorium
  • Ephraim Ngatane; Sanatorium

Lot Estimate
ZAR 40 000 - 60 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 54 624

About this Item

South African 1938-1971

signed and dated 64; inscribed with the artist's name, title, date and medium on a Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery label adhered to the reverse

watercolour and gouache on paper
51,5 by 68,5cm excluding frame; 76 by 93,5 by 5,5cm including frame


“Ephraim Ngatane was famed among his colleagues for his technical sorcery. He could just as easily transform a watercolour into a shimmering jewel as he could make an oil painting resemble a stained glass window.”1
Ngatane had already had two solo exhibitions when in 1964 he was hospitalised with tuberculosis at the Charles Hurwitz South African National Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Soweto in 1964. It was here that he encountered the young Dumile Feni and together they produced a series of murals, most of which have subsequently been painted over.2
His watercolour titled Sanatorium of 1964 gives a poignant rendition of an eerie quiet, pathos and a sense of time standing still for patients in this institution. They are confined to their beds, only one man sitting up and seemingly wistfully contemplating his life and an uncertain future - while two young boys huddle around a coal stove. Rendered in tranquil yet clear hues of blue and greens the artist shows great tenderness towards those who like him are inflicted with this infectious disease.
In his short life Ephraim Ngatane was a very prolific artist producing over 300 works of art. He evocatively captured the essence of township life and shanty towns in and around Johannesburg. He composed colourful pictures, at times celebratory, giving a visual interpretation of the life around him, images ranging from documentary realism to abstract painting. He created moving renditions of the realities of township life, its hardships and hopes, its music and dance halls, beggars and bicycles. ‘It was during his confinement that he encountered and inspired the young Dumile Feni, who found in Ngatane a model for his own headstrong practice as an artist. Ngatane and Dumile produced a series of murals at the sanatorium, most of which however, have subsequently been painted over.’
Ngatane died of tuberculosis in 1971 at 33 years of age.

1. Rory Bester, Natalie Knight and David Koloane (2009) A Setting Apart, Johannesburg: Blank Books, page 8.
2. YuaMFhxBy5c, accessed 31 July2022.


Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery, Cape Town, 6 April 2008.

The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection.


Standard Bank Art Gallery, Johannesburg, Ephraim Ngatane: Symphony of Soweto, 9 February to 13 March 2010.

An exhibition of paintings by Ephraim Ngatane was shown at Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery to accompany the launch of the book ‘Ephraim Ngatane: A Setting Apart’ on 26 August 2010.


Rory Bester (2009) Ephraim Ngatane: A Setting Apart, Cape Town: Blank Books, illustrated in colour on the half-title page.

Michael Stevenson and Joost Bosland (n.d.) Take Your Road and Travel Along, Cape Town: Michael Stevenson, Michael Graham-Stewart and Johans Borman, illustrated on page 129.

The Essence of Township Life, February 2009, illustrated on page 79.

Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery web page,, illustrated, accessed 31 July 2022.

Esmé Berman. 1983. Art and Artists of South Africa. A.A. Balkema: Cape Town/Rotterdam, illustrated with the artist on page 339.

View all Ephraim Ngatane lots for sale in this auction

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