Important South African and International Art

Live Auction, 7 November 2016

Evening Sale

Sold for

ZAR 738 920
Lot 277
  • Walter Battiss; Nesos, fifty-four
  • Walter Battiss; Nesos, fifty-four

Lot Estimate
ZAR 400 000 - 600 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 738 920

About this Item

South African 1906-1982
Nesos, fifty-four
executed in 1968

each signed and numbered 4/25 in pencil in the margin; handrwitten colophone reads: Nesos is the Greek word for island. The contents of this book are images from sixteen Greek islands that I knew. All the serigraphs have been made by me and no printer has touched the pages. There are a few odd proofs and only 25 numbered copies. Walter Battiss, Athens, 1968

colour silkscreen
53: 28 by 40cm; 1: 34 by 49cm


Nesos, the book produced by Walter Battiss over eight months after 'five consecutive trips to the Greek islands between 1966 and 1968'1 formed a significant part of the major exhibition this year, Walter Battiss: 'I Invented Myself' (The Jack M Ginsberg Collection).1 This exact edition, the fourth of a possible twenty-five handmade copies (although it is likely that even ten were produced), was the same example used in the show.

In the magnificent book accompanying the exhibition, Warren Siebrits, who curated the exhibition and conceptualised the book, wrote that this series of fifty-four screenprints, which was dis-bound for the exhibition, 'surpassed anything previously achieved by any other artist in technical virtuosity'.2 He added that in his opinion 'there are no other silkscreens form the hundreds made by Battiss over the years that come close to the technical and visual sophistication of the exquisite images in Nesos, which are testament to the sheer pleasure the artist felt when visiting Greece'.3

In an essay for Walter Battiss: Gentle Anarchist, published for the retrospective exhibition of his works at the Standard Bank Gallery in 2005, Frieda Harmsen confirmed the intense pleasure Battiss found in Greece. 'Greece and the islands cast him under a spell from which he could never again escape,' she wrote, 'this Mediterranean world was his Eden'.4

Murray Schoonraad provided additional insight to Battiss’s achievements in Greece:

‘He had been using silkscreen as art medium for some 15 years prior to this date (1967… when he discovered Greece), but now he began to master the technique of a great artist. Because of his love for colour and kinetic forms, he was particularly attracted to this graphic medium. Although of late he sometimes employs young artists to print his graphic works, at this time when his production of seismographs was so prolific he printed each one personally. He rebelled against the machine age and, probably as a tribute to the unsophisticated life he encountered on the Greek islands, he decided to produce a handmade book... Even the text was handcut and hand painted by Battiss. Many of the pages are technically experimental in order to obtain particular effects. The pages are evidence of a tremendous joie de vivre. They are gay and colourful, full of spontaneous use of colour and form. This is truly an ode to beauty – a poem in colour.’5

1 Warren Siebrits. (2016) Walter Battiss: “I Invented Myself” Johannesburg: The Amersand Foundation. Page 78.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Frieda Harmsen. (2005) ‘Walter Battiss – Universal Traveller’ in Walter Battiss: Gentle Anarchist Johannesburg: Standard Bank Gallery. Page 46.

5 Murray Schoonraad. (1976) Walter Battiss. Cape Town: c. Struik Publishers. Page 20.


Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, Walter Battiss: I Invented Myself (The Jack M Ginsberg Collection), 6 July - 9 October 2016


Warren Siebrits (ed.) (2016) Walter Battiss: I Invented Myself (The Jack M Ginsberg Collection), Johannesburg: The Ampersand Fund. Illustrated in colour on pages 87-93.

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