Johannesburg Auction Week
Live Virtual Auction, 3 November 2022
Modern and Contemporary Art, Part I
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About this Item
The luckless Reg Turvey – kind, humble, and a painter to his fingertips – found limited success only very late in his career. While he exhibited constantly – even presenting a solo show at London’s Bloomsbury Gallery in 1937 – it seems that critics looked past his pictures more often than not. He had to wait until 1964, when he was well into his 80s, for some critical recognition. In that year, two shows cemented his well-earned reputation: the first took place at the South African Institute of Arts in Cape Town, where the National Gallery in that city acquired two of his oil paintings; the second, at the Lidchi Gallery in Johannesburg, deftly curated by Harold Jeppe and Sidney Goldblatt, impressed reviewers and collectors alike.
Turvey came from Ladybrand, a small town on the then Basotoland border (now Lesotho), and grew up on the family farm, De Hoop, which overlooked the valley between Ladybrand and Maseru. There, the young Turvey was drawn to examples of rock art in the nearby caves, and also developed a lasting fondness for horses. Both these influences would leave a mark on his style and subject matter. Without matriculating at Grey College in Bloemfontein, Turvey was sent to London for formal art training. En route he enjoyed a brief apprenticeship with Frans Oerder in Pretoria before entering the Slade School of Art, where he worked under Henry Tonks and William Steer, between 1903 and 1907.
After stints in Japan, Kenya and South Africa again, Turvey settled in southwest England in 1924. By the 1930s he was pursuing a gently modernist aesthetic, characterised by the simplification of form and tightly segmented compositions. The current lot, a gorgeous later work, designed as if a jigsaw, shows a herd of horses in full flight. Using shades of earthy grey, yellow, quartz and tan, with fine and sometimes sketchy brushwork, the artist created a unified and mesmerizing surface.