In 1976; Gregoire wrote: “In winter when the oaks are bare you see the knots, you see the moss, you see the scars in the trees where the wind tore out the branches and you see the twists … and if the sun should shine and you look up into the sky, it is almost like embroidery. … To me the oak in winter is one of the most beautiful things.”1
There can be no doubt that the Cape was the place that inspired Gregoire Boonzaier most. The landscape around Cape Town with its oak trees, cottages and farmhouses recur throughout his long career. This large, early work features many of the characteristics of his definitive farm scenes, although somewhat less abstracted than his treatment was to become later. Nevertheless, artist and critic, Pierre Volschenk, wrote of Gregoire’s work by this stage of his career: “One could say that by 1940 Gregoire had developed the kind of self-confidence he was after.”2
While Die Burger’s art critic FL Alexander noted how, “Like the great Dutch landscapists of the seventeenth century, Gregoire seeks beauty in featureless, everyday sights”, he also notes how Gregoire “sees drama in this landscape”3. Bekker is not the only critic to have noted the “storm-battered Cape trees, branches ripped off by the wind”4 that feature in so many of Gregoire’s Cape scenes, and which are clearly evident in this piece.
What former Pretoria Art Museum Director AJ Werth refers to as “the exuberant play of light…”5, particularly in the skies and grass, brings great atmosphere to this work, anchored by the characterful building, which seems almost at one with the landscape and made tranquil by the peaceful presence of children and chickens.
1 Bekker, Martin. (1990) Gregoire Boonzaier, Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Page 38.
2 Pierre Volschenk in Bekker, (1990) Gregoire Boonzaier, Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Page 31.
3 FL Alexander in Bekker, Martin. (1990) Gregoire Boonzaier, Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Page 55.
4 Bekker, Martin. (1990) Gregoire Boonzaier, Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Page 39.
5 AJ Werth in Bekker, (1990) Gregoire Boonzaier, Cape Town: Human & Rousseau. Page 47.