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 147 940
Lot 74
  • John Koenakeefe Mohl; Caught in Storm in Soweto in Soweto Johannesburg (S.A)
  • John Koenakeefe Mohl; Caught in Storm in Soweto in Soweto Johannesburg (S.A)
  • John Koenakeefe Mohl; Caught in Storm in Soweto in Soweto Johannesburg (S.A)


Lot Estimate
ZAR 80 000 - 120 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 147 940

About this Item

South African 1903-1985
Caught in Storm in Soweto in Soweto Johannesburg (S.A)

signed and dated 'in the 20th Century'; signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse; inscribed with the artist's name, title and exhibition details on a Pretoria Art Museum Label adhered to the reverse

oil on masonite
40 by 58,5cm excluding frame; 57 by 76 by 3,5cm including frame

Notes

Weather – rain, wind, smog and even snow – figures prominently in the mid-century urban scenes of John Koenakeefe Motlhakangna, known professionally as John Mohl. Snow Morning, Sophiatown (1942) in the MTN Art Collection is a prototypical work depicting two female figures labouring outdoors in a working-class suburb blanketed with snow. Featured in the 1942 exhibition of the South African Academy, the work established a rhetorical style that Mohl gradually perfected over the ensuing decades as he definitively shifted from depicting rural landscapes to cityscapes. “A distinguishing feature of the cityscapes is that the workers are almost always hurrying into the illusory space away from the viewer so that the facelessness of an almost dehumanised working force strikes home,” noted Elza Miles of Mohl’s studies of workers dissolving into hazy urban backgrounds from the 1960s and 70s.1 The travails of long, weather-wracked commutes from segregated 'locations' to work undeniably form the basis of these documentary studies, but they are not reducible to mere sociological record. Mohl’s work forms part of a global canon of portrayals of weather: from Childe Hassam’s impressionist studies of umbrella-toting pedestrians in New York during the Gilded Age to Peter Clarke’s pictures of windswept and rain-soaked inhabitants of the Cape. A perceptive Rand Daily Mail critic in 1964 noted an additional similarity: “One may sense the bleakness and the cold … Yet there is a peculiar beauty present reminiscent of that which one finds in Japanese prints.”2 There is an undeniable worldliness to Mohl’s paintings of black resilience in Johannesburg.

1Elza Miles (1997) Land Lives: A Story of Early Black Artists. Cape Town, Human & Rousseau, page 61.
2H.E.W. aka Teddy Winder (1964) ‘Life in the locations (art shows)’, Rand Daily Mail, Wednesday 4 November, page 10.

Provenance

Stephan Welz & Co in association with Sotheby's, Johannesburg, 16 and 17 April 2007, lot 541

The Oliver Powell and Timely Investments Trust Collection.

Exhibited

Pretoria Art Museum, General Exhibition, September 2001 - January 2007.

View all John Koenakeefe Mohl lots for sale in this auction



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