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Auction of Important South African, British and Continental Paintings and Sculpture

  18 May 2010     Archived

Strauss & Co, South Africa's premier auction house with Stephan Welz, leading auctioneer and expert at its helm, announces yet another spectacular auction which takes place at the Johannesburg Country Club, Woodmead on 24 May 2010.

One of the highlights is a 1949 painting of Barberton (estimate R700 000 – 1 000 000) by J.H. Pierneef, unusual for its homestead in the foreground, beyond which stretches a sun-drenched valley populated with houses.

Rarely does an auction house offer such a wide range of still lifes from different periods of Irma Stern’s career. From an early still life painted in 1934 to a unique middle-period painting of proteas to a late painting produced in 1960, these works provide an exceptional opportunity to examine the changes in Stern’s approach not just to this particular genre but to the handling of her medium and to larger questions of the nature of painting in a rapidly changing world. Still Life with Gladioli and Fruit (estimate R4 000 000 – 5 000 000) is a superb example of Stern’s mastery of her medium displaying some of the lessons learnt from her mentor, German Expressionist painter Max Pechstein. The generous form of a favourite green vase (which also appeared in Still Life with Dahlias on Strauss & Co’s inaugural Cape Town sale in October 2009) is located at the centre of the composition from which the green stems radiate. Soft pink blooms with luscious highlights are articulated with rose-coloured lines that are echoed in the polka-dot pink cloth. The rich buttery yellow background is a completely unexpected choice of colour against the foreground pinks. All is painted with substantial impasto strokes and a palpable appeal that makes one imagine that one can reach into the painting to inhale the fragrance of fresh flowers and take a bite from an apple. While closely associated with German Expressionism, it is clear that Maggie Laubser’s A Still Life of a Jug with Nasturtiums and Apples on a Table (estimate R 250 000 – 350 000) also owes a debt to Paul Cézanne’s Post-Impressionist vision.

By contrast, Maurice van Essche’s Malay Woman with a Coffee Pot (estimate R400 000 – 600 000) painted in 1965, displays the strong impact of Analytical Cubism on post-war artists in South Africa. Here the tonal modulation and planar treatment of large blocks of solid colour illustrate the gradual move towards abstraction.

The Thames at Sunset (estimate R300 000 – 500 000) is one of several paintings on this auction by the illustrious Maud Sumner. In this study of reflections, the liquid subtleties of colour articulated by fine drawing encapsulate the impact of Analytical Cubism as translated through British artists like John Piper. Alexis Preller’s The Flower King (estimate R800 000 – 1 200 000) depicts a young man, crowned with an elaborate headdress of organic forms. His beautiful face and aquiline features seem preoccupied and his cheek bears a small symbol that evokes a scarification mark or a tear. The painting resonates with the artist’s youthful admiration of Post-Impressionist artists such as Paul Gauguin and the clarity of form, purity of colour and hieratic qualities of Piero della Francesca’s Quattrocento frescoes.

A significant number of works by Edoardo Villa, Cecil Skotnes, Sydney Kumalo, Giuseppe Cattaneo and Cecily Sash who exhibited together as the Amadlozi Group, a name meaning ‘spirit of the ancestors’, are included in this auction. According to Stephan Welz “visitors to the preview at The Country Club at Woodmead will have a rare opportunity to see the works of these artists who, as a group and as individuals, have had a marked influence on the development of South African art”.
(text by Emma Bedford, Senior Paintings Specialist)

Date to diarise:
Discussion on the highlights by Stephan Welz
Saturday 22 May at 11am during the preview
Accessible also on our website

Enquiries: Stephan Welz/MJ Darroll Tel: 011 728 8246

Press contact: Bina Genovese Tel 021 683 6560