Online-Only Auction, 15 - 22 February 2021

Sold for

R 21 105
Lot 398
Sam Nhlengethwa; Tribute to Henri Matisse

Lot Estimate
R 18 000 - 24 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
R 21 105

About this Item

South African 1955-
Tribute to Henri Matisse
signed, dated '14, numbered 14/50, inscribed with the title in pencil and embossed with The Artists' Press chopmark in the margin
nine colour lithograph
57 by 76,5cm excluding frame; 71 by 90 by 3,5cm including frame


The lithographs in lots 344, 398 and 399 pay tribute to three giants of the art world, Henri Matisse, Cecil Skotnes, and Mmakgabo Mmapula Helen Sebidi. Instead of using conventional perspective, Nhlengethwa abstracts and flattens space, patterning and overlapping planes in a clean and sharp manner to transport the viewer into a still space of aesthetic harmony. Unconventionally, he depicts an artwork within each artwork. The flat swathes of colour on the walls and furniture in the scenes contrast with the depictions of identifiable works by Matisse, Skotnes and Sebidi that appear to hang on the walls. These are the busiest elements of the artworks, which makes them the focal points.

The artist’s Tribute series (2008–2014) has recently been extended in Interiors Continued, where the artist creates further painting-collages in tribute to great artists and musicians.

Nhlengethwa worked as a set designer for the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) for 13 years, and that experience is a contributing factor in this series. He says, ‘we were dealing with space – vacated space. The tributes ape that empty space, but with the hanging paintings of these specific individuals, they are injected with a sense of vibrancy.’1

These works remind us of the importance of culture in our spaces – without art, our lives and our spaces would be empty, and rather mundane!

Nhlengethwa has an extensive oeuvre, spanning over three decades and is known to be captivated by downtown Johannesburg: he has documented, in lithography, painting, collage, and a combination of all these media, the city’s many personas, its jazz scene, nightlife, struggle and strife, in a very distinct artistic language. He studied at Rorke’s Drift Art and Craft Centre in the 70s, and later the Johannesburg Art Foundation. He was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 1994 and his work have since become widely known, in South Africa and internationally.

1. Sam Nhlengethwa (2020) Interiors Continued, Press Release, Goodman Gallery, London,

Cheriese Dilrajh

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