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Sale of Important Post-War Art Collection will Benefit Education

  25 October 2016     Archived

Irma Stern's striking oil portrait from 1956, Lot 226, Woman with Blue Headscarf (estimate R2 000 000 - R3 000 000), is one of a number of remarkable works from the collection of Liselotte and Walter Hardebeck going under the hammer at Strauss & Co's upcoming 7 November sale in Johannesburg. Other notable works from this collection include Lot 223, Stern's Watussi Chief's Wife (with Head Dress), a charcoal drawing from 1946 (estimate R200 000 - 300 000), and a group of five little-seen works by Alexis Preller.

The Stern drawing was acquired directly from the artist in 1956 for £31.10 by the late Walter Hardebeck, a prominent businessman, art collector and philanthropist and was displayed in his study for many decades. The lot includes detailed correspondence between Stern and Hardebeck, in which the artist speaks of her sitter's royal lineage.

The Hardebecks met in Germany and fled to South Africa during the Nazi dictatorship. Remembered as a glamorous and cultured socialite, Liselotte survived Walter by 25 years and passed away in 2014. The Hardebeck Collection was one of the last consignments brought into Strauss & Co by the late Stephan Welz, founding managing director of the company who died unexpectedly at the end of 2015.

"Stephan knew the Hardebecks personally and served as their valuator for a number of years," says Susie Goodman, General Manager of Strauss & Co's Johannesburg office. "We're privileged to be handling this important estate."

Although well known for their grand dinner parties, the Hardebecks were also inveterate travellers and collectors. Their collection includes many artefacts assembled on their travels across Africa and South America.

"Everything was meticulously catalogued by Walter Hardebeck," says Alastair Meredith, an art specialist at Strauss & Co. "The collection is accompanied by a wonderfully rich archive of correspondence, including invoices and other documents detailing where the artworks in the collection were bought, how much they paid, and the dates on which works were bought."

Alongside their holding of exceptional Sterns, the Hardebecks also acquired important works by Preller, including Lot 242, the 1952 oil on panel David (estimate R250 000 - 300 000). Art and historian Karel Nel, an acknowledged Preller expert, comments: "When Esmé Berman and I were working on the double volume, Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows and Alexis Preller: Collected Images, we were unable to find or trace this painting in the exhibition listings of the time. We therefore deduced that the work left his studio between exhibitions and was therefore unrecorded. It is a much-delayed but special experience to be able to view this work at close quarters now."

Other Preller highlights owned by the Hardebecks include Lot 233, a 1948 oil on canvas Archaic Sandals (estimate R200 000 - 300 000). The sandals, an homage to Van Gogh, differ from the great impressionist's workmanlike shoes in that, as Nel writes, Preller's "exquisitely crafted Indian or Arabic style sandals allude in some way to his distancing himself from the constraints of the conservative and oppressive environment from which he came".

Other artists represented in this important post-war collection include Pieter Wenning, JH Pierneef, Walter Battiss and Douglas Portway. There are also a number of works by Mozambican painter and poet, Malangatana Valente Ngwenya, with whom the Hardebecks dined at the Polana Hotel in Maputo.

Towards the end of her life, Liselotte Hardebeck requested that after her death a trust be formed for the advancement of post-graduate study for previously disadvantaged learners. Trustees however convinced her to establish the trust during her lifetime so that she could personally witness its benefits. Liselotte requested that the contents of the Hardebeck home be placed on auction after her death, with proceeds directly benefiting the trust.

Jewellery, silver and furniture pieces from the Estate of Liselotte Hardebeck fetched R1 104 245 at Strauss & Co's recent October sale in Cape Town.

The proceeds of the sale of the Hardebeck Collection will benefit the Umamawothando Trust, a charity established by Liselotte Hardebeck in 2009 to help disadvantaged students with post-graduate studies. Umamawothando translates as "mother of love" and was a name informally given to Liselotte by those she helped during the years of apartheid.

The residual contents of the Hardebeck home will be auctioned on a dedicated online sale from 9-14 November 2016.

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Bina Genovese / 083 680 9944

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