Wolf Kibel’s Three Women on a Balcony is remarkable for several reasons, not least of which is its considerable size in an oeuvre in which the artist produced mostly modest-sized works. Inevitably it recalls Édouard Manet’s The Balcony with its three fashionable Parisian figures elegantly posed before a shuttered door. They gaze down on what we assume to be the street below or the space that we, the viewers, occupy. The balcony, in its role as a useful theatrical device that affords the privileged a perfect view of the passing parade, is here also used to draw attention to a life of elegance and luxury.
Unlike Manet’s painterly Impressionism, Kibel has rendered the scene in a more graphic and expressive manner. The graphic technique reveals his superb draughtsmanship that structures the composition and contains the delicate colouring and playful patterning. The strong simplification of figures and features proves that Kibel was well aware of artistic developments made in Europe by Modigliani and his fellow artists from the School of Paris.
The three women are believed to be the artist’s wife Freda Kibel, Rachel Lipshitz and Rosa van Gelderen, the latter being an influential school principal and art teacher - a strikingly good-looking woman who was also painted by Irma Stern.
South African National Gallery, Cape Town, and Pretoria Art Museum, 1976, Wolf Kibel Retrospective, cat no 84
Stephan Welz, Art at Auction in South Africa 1969-1989, Ad Donker, Johannesburg, 1989, page 147, illustrated