Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art

Online-Only Auction, 14 - 25 April 2022

South African Art at the Venice Biennale
About the Session

This Venice Biennale-themed session in Strauss & Co's April online-only auction is timed to coincide with the launch of the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale in late April, and Strauss & Co’s sponsorship of the African Art in Venice Forum 2022 at Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal on 20 and 21 April. This session divulges the history of the Venice Biennale and South African art, as the art world converges on Venice. South Africa first became part of the Venice Biennale more than seventy years ago. The cordial relationship between Italy and South Africa over this period has nurtured international support for artists and art organisations in this country and continues to develop today.

  • Jean Welz; Bathers and the Bridge
  • Jean Welz; Bathers and the Bridge
  • Jean Welz; Bathers and the Bridge
  • Jean Welz; Bathers and the Bridge
  • Jean Welz; Bathers and the Bridge

Lot Estimate
ZAR 200 000 - 300 000
Cape Town
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The item was unsold and may still be available

About this Item

South African 1900-1975
Bathers and the Bridge

signed and dated 1954

oil on canvas
66 by 91cm excluding frame; 85,5 by 110,5 by 7cm including frame


A few years before he was to represent South Africa at the São Paulo Biennial in 1957, Jean Welz created Bathers on the Bridge. Talking about the picture at his solo exhibition in Johannesburg, he stated that the work was his attempt to produce an artwork “with as much beauty as possible, and to do this with the greatest integrity he was able.”1 According to Elza Miles in her publication The World of Jean Welz (1997), the artist had great difficulty in taking inspiration from the harsher South African veld landscape, compared to the European landscape he grew up in. So, although already living in South Africa, it was a reproduction of a Dutch landscape painting, that Welz bought at an auction and hung proudly in his Johannesburg home, that inspired this painting. You can clearly see this reference in the way Welz chooses to play with light and composition in the work. The contrast between the exquisite white, almost luminescent bathers and the extremely dark abstracted green foliage is largely reminiscent of the romantic and stark tonal palette seen in the Dutch landscape he was so fond of.

1 Elza Miles (1997) The World of Jean Welz, Vlaeberg: Fernwood Press Ltd, page 91.

Jean Welz exhibited at the Venice Biennale, South African Pavilion in 1952.


Strauss & Co, Johannesburg, 9 March 2009, lot 64.

The Professor Leon Strydom Collection.


Constantia Gallery, Johannesburg, Solo Exhibition, October 1954.


Elza Miles (1997) The World of Jean Welz, Cape Town: Fernwood Press, illustrated in colour on page 136.

View all Jean Welz lots for sale in this auction

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