Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art
Live Virtual Auction, 5 - 6 April 2022
Figuration: Past and Present
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About this Item
Marjorie Reynolds, Dorothy Kay’s daughter, remembers the painting The Boxer well in her biography of the artist. Dorothy’s husband, Hobart was an avid yachtsman, soldier and sportsman with a particular interest in boxing, so much so that their children were all taught the art of boxing. Hobart’s interest led Dorothy “to paint a life-size standing three-quarter figure The Boxer, in satin shorts and gloved hands on hips. Hobart would sometimes be a sparring partner at work-outs at the Tyrone Hotel in South End [Port Elizabeth]. At night we children would sit in an alcoholically fume-laden room, watching the terrible punishment this heavy-weight boxer would inflict, on one occasion breaking some of Hobart’s ribs. The hotel was run by Mr. Joe Pearce, a keen weekend painter, who had been a good bantam or flyweight boxer. From his hotel Dorothy painted in 1922 The Lighthouse of Donkin Reserve as seen from South End. Some of Dorothy’s fish market subjects were painted from outside the hotel where a busy fish market was held daily.”1
Reynolds clearly overlooked the tattoo-ed arms of the boxer – with butterflies, eagles, daggers, hearts, and the like on both upper arms – in her otherwise apt description of the painting. The painting constitutes a high point in the ever-evolving stylistic development of the artist: from conventional and traditional portraiture owing to her classical training in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century – a style she used in the many formal portrait commissions she completed – to an exploration of the vocabulary of modernism in her various and frequent self-portraits, and a veritable metaphysical dimension in her later abstract works.
Proudly, even defiantly, the boxer stares straight at the viewer, at the ready to battle with his opponent, as Kay articulates something about the way masculinity and social status were defined at the time.
- Marjorie Reynolds (1989) ‘Everything you paint is a portrait of yourself’: Dorothy Kay – A biography, Cape Town: published privately by Alec and Marjorie Reynolds, page 48.
The present lot has been earmarked for a forthcoming Strauss & Co exhibition in July/August 2022.
Strauss & Co, Giving Direction: Figuration, Past and Present, Welgemeend Manor, Cape Town, 14 to 20 February 2022, illustrated in colour on page 26 of the exhibition catalogue.
LiteratureMarjorie Reynolds (1989) ‘Everything you paint is a portrait of yourself’: Dorothy Kay – A biography, Cape Town: published privately by Alec and Marjorie Reynolds, page 48.