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Strauss & Co unveils its eagerly anticipated October 2017 Cape Town sale

  30 August 2017     Archived

A portrait of a raffish shepherd by Maggie Laubser, a stylised homage to Hieronymus Bosch by Alexis Preller, two drawings of William Kentridge's fictional alter ego and a night sky landscape by John Meyer, form part of Strauss & Co's substantial offering at its forthcoming live sale in Cape Town, which will be held at the Vineyard Hotel on 16 October.

The sale, which spans three distinct periods in this country's art history, foregrounds how artistic innovation has been a constant of South African art, since the early beginnings of a national tradition following unification to the worldly present of the post-apartheid years.

The lots on offer include important pieces by earlier twentieth-century masters like Hugo Naudé, Maggie Laubser, JH Pierneef and Irma Stern; mid-century trailblazers like Walter Battiss, Peter Clarke, Erik Laubscher, Cecil Skotnes and Alexis Preller; and globally acclaimed contemporary artists like William Kentridge.

"As is a hallmark of every Strauss & Co sale, quality is a consistent marker of the works on offer," says Strauss & Co chairman, Frank Kilbourn. "The key lots from our Cape Town sale are all definitive examples by the artists, and worthy of serious collector interest."

Strauss & Co's Cape Town sale is preceded by a calendar of social events, public lectures and a special pop-up exhibition at the One&Only, V&A Waterfront, which will run from 13-17 September. The exhibition will present a curated selection of auction highlights and is timed to coincide with the VIP previews of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), which opens to the general public on 22 September.

A strong showing of South African masters

JH Pierneef; Hardekoolboom in a Bushveld Landscape

JH Pierneef
Hardekoolboom in a Bushveld

Collectors of JH Pierneef will delight in the selection of botanicals and landscapes on offer at Strauss & Co's live sale. Pierneef was a foremost painter of trees, as is evident in a 1944 oil depicting a majestic leadwood tree, Hardekoolboom in a Bushveld Landscape (estimate R2 - R3 million). An early pastel work from 1913, Willow Trees in Summer (estimate R250 000 - R350 000), demonstrates Pierneef's accomplished draughtsmanship.

JH Pierneef; Apies River, Pretoria, with Meintjies Kop Beyond

JH Pierneef
Apies River, Pretoria, with Meintjies
Kop Beyond

Pierneef's evolving style as a painter is recorded in his oil on hessian Apies River, Pretoria, with Meintjies Kop Beyond (estimate R1.6 - R2.4 million). The work depicts a favourite Pretoria landscape of the artist and also marks his shift towards a more simplified graphic style that would win Pierneef national acclaim. An unusual part of his output, in May 2016 Strauss & Co achieved R 1 079 960 for the smaller oil on hessian, Umbrealla Thorn. Elim (estimate R700 000 - R900 000) is a 1926 study in oil of Cape Dutch cottages at a mission village on the Agulhas Plain.

The sale also includes two casein landscapes, highly prized works that reveal Pierneef's great dexterity with the paintbrush. Produced in 1924, Jonkershoek: Stellenbosch (estimate R500 000 - R700 000), is an early complete rendering of the famous peaks of Stellenbosch. "This intimate casein constitutes a veritable jewel in Pierneef's crown of creative output," says Strauss & Co specialist, Wilhelm van Rensburg.

  • JH Pierneef; Willow Trees in Summer

    JH Pierneef
    Willow Trees in Summer

  • JH Pierneef; Elim

    JH Pierneef

  • JH Pierneef; Jonkershoek: Stellenbosch

    JH Pierneef
    Jonkershoek: Stellenbosch

Maggie Laubser; The Old Shepherd

Maggie Laubser
The Old Shepherd

Maggie Laubser; A Black and White Cat Seated Amongst Flowers

Maggie Laubser
A Black and White Cat
Seated Amongst Flowers

Maggie Laubser; Yellow Bird

Maggie Laubser
Yellow Bird

Important works by Maggie Laubser rarely come to market, so there is justifiable excitement around The Old Shepherd (estimate R2.8 - R3.4 million), a striking portrait of a confident herdsman with two peacock feathers in his hat. A recurring protagonist in Laubser's work, the Bloemfontein-born shepherd worked at the painter's family farm, Oortmanspos, northeast of Cape Town.



One of three Laubser still lifes on offer, A Black and White Cat Seated Amongst Flowers (estimate R800 000 - R1.2 million) is a late work representative of the painter's quest to portray the "spiritual shape" of objects. Yellow Bird (estimate R500 000 - R700 000), also a late-career work, confidently portrays the titular yellow bird integrated into an abstracted landscape of lines and shapes.


Irma Stern; Madonna

Irma Stern

Irma Stern; Black Lilies

Irma Stern
Black Lilies

Rightly celebrated for her botanical still lifes, Irma Stern is represented on Strauss & Co's sale by Black Lilies (estimate R2 - R3 million), an unusual floral study from 1941 dominated by exotic black arum lilies. Produced in 1952, Madonna (estimate R500 000 - R700 000) is a bold expressionistic interpretation by Stern of a key icon of Catholicism.


Hugo Naude; Venice

Hugo Naudé

An evergreen figure at auction, Hugo Naudé's early impressionist landscapes of Southern Africa remain highly sought after. Strauss & Co is offering a discerning selection of landscape and marine scenes of Hermanus, Hex River Valley, Port St Johns, Victoria Falls and the Brandwacht Mountains in the painter's native Worcester. The highlight, though, is a dazzling depiction of Venice (estimate R300 000 - R500 000) painted on Naudé's visit to the Italian city in 1913.


"One is reminded not only of how widely travelled was Naudé for an early South African artist, but how brilliantly varied was his tone, his subject, and his colour," says Strauss & Co specialist, Alastair Meredith.

Collectors formulate a mid-century canon

In recent years, there has been increasing competition among collectors to secure works by artists who represented the cultural derring-do and vitality of the post-war decades, notably Walter Battiss and Alexis Preller from Pretoria, Cecil Skotnes from Johannesburg, and Erik Laubscher and Peter Clarke from Cape Town. Interest in Preller has been especially pronounced, with Strauss & Co achieving a number of world records for this idiosyncratic painter in 2016.

Strauss & Co is delighted to be offering Preller's Homage to Hieronymus Bosch (estimate R3 - R5 million). Painted after a visit to Paris, where he acquired a rare book of Bosch's work, this unusual still life from 1948 shows Preller's predilection for creating symbolic still lives. Karel Nel, a noted Preller expert, says the composition creates "a heightened dreamlike strangeness that connects Preller's work obliquely to both the Italian metaphysical painters and to the Surrealist tradition".

Preller is also represented on the sale by two portraits, Christ Head (estimate R250 000 - R350 000), dated 1947, and the late-career oil from 1975, The Poet Prince (estimate R600 000 - R800 000). The shell is an important motif in Preller's stylized oeuvre and forms the central subject in Undeciphered, Computerised Message I (or II) (estimate R600 000 - R800 000), from 1975.

  • Alexis Preller; Homage to Hieronymus Bosch

    Alexis Preller
    Homage to Hieronymus Bosch

  • Alexis Preller; Christ Head

    Alexis Preller
    Christ Head

  • Alexis Preller; The Poet Prince

    Alexis Preller
    The Poet Prince

  • Alexis Preller; Undeciphered, Computerised Message I (or II)

    Alexis Preller
    Undeciphered, Computerised
    Message I (or II)

Walter Battiss; The Early Men

Walter Battiss
The Early Men

Cecil Skotnes; Communication

Cecil Skotnes

Walter Battiss, who initiated the first critical study of Preller in 1947, is also widely praised for his recombinant style. Painted in 1939 following his first trip abroad, The Early Men (estimate R200 000 - R300 000) is an important painting that captures Battiss's fledgling attempt to negotiate the twin influences of European painterly modernism and local rock art in his own work.

Cecil Skotnes produced abridged descriptions of human figures that bristled with energy, as is evident with his incised woodcarving Communication (estimate R700 000 - R900 000).



Erik Laubscher; Still Life with Iron and Fruit

Erik Laubscher
Still Life with Iron and Fruit

Erik Laubscher; Evening Landscape

Erik Laubscher
Evening Landscape

Paris-trained Erik Laubscher initially produced figurative work before settling on the Cape landscape as his enduring subject. Dating from 1950, Still Life with Iron and Fruit (estimate R1.2 - R1.6 million) is a confident genre work from Laubscher's brief French period. Evening Landscape (estimate R400 000 - R600 000), from 1966, is representative of Laubscher's accomplished mid-career period.

Peter Clarke; Day Dreaming

Peter Clarke
Day Dreaming

Peter Clarke; Birds in Flight

Peter Clarke
Birds in Flight




Peter Clarke shunned the mid-century turn to painterly abstraction. Birds in Flight (estimate R300 000 - R500 000), a stylised 1960 study of birds flying over a cubistic landscape, is one of a number of works by Clarke on offer depicting birds. Painted seven years later, Day Dreaming (estimate R300 000 - R500 000) presents five naked bathers on what could be Sandy Bay beach, which Clarke visited as petty apartheid made visiting the beach more menacing; this work brings pleasure and social history into quiet conversation.


Shifts in style and content in post-apartheid contemporary

Strauss & Co is thrilled to be offering two important early drawings by William Kentridge, a globally recognised artist whose work will form part of Zeitz MOCAA's launch exhibition.

William Kentridge; Drawing for 'Johannesburg Second Greatest City After Paris'

William Kentridge
Drawing for 'Johannesburg
Second Greatest City After Paris'

Drawing for 'Sobriety, Obesity, and Growing Old'

William Kentridge
Drawing for 'Sobriety, Obesity,
and Growing Old'

Produced in 1989, Drawing for 'Johannesburg Second Greatest City After Paris' (estimate R2 - R3 million) is from Kentridge's first film from his celebrated cycle of stop-animation films collectively known as Drawings for Projection. It depicts Kentridge's artistic alter ego, Felix Teitlebaum, bathing in his own anxiety.

Drawing for 'Sobriety, Obesity, and Growing Old' (estimate R2.8 - R3.4 million), an important work from 1991, dramatizes a pivotal moment in Kentridge's fourth film, when the wife of fictional industrialist Soho Eckstein walks with her lover, Felix Teitlebaum, into a peopled landscape of change.


Anticipation surrounds the sale of Odysseus (estimate R1.8 - R2.2 million), a rare night scene by John Meyer, a contemporary master of the realist landscape. Strauss & Co is proud to present such a significant work by this highly collectible artist, on auction.

Zander Blom, Wim Botha and Lionel Smit, three established Cape Town artists, all originally from Pretoria, have found success exhibiting locally and abroad. Botha is represented by Untitled (Ecstasy Series III) (estimate R250 000 - R350 000), a 2011 sculpture made from hand-carved bibles. Also dated 2011 and produced at the start of his prolific solo career, Blom's Untitled [1.99] (estimate R100 000 - R120 000), is typical of his earliest experiments with gestural abstraction. Smit, who went to school with Blom, has gained a reputation at market for his figurative canvases, of which Untitled #3 (estimate R280 000 - R340 000) is a strong example.

  • Wim Botha; Untitled (Ecstasy Series III)

    Wim Botha
    Untitled (Ecstasy Series III)

  • Zander Blom; Untitled [1.99]

    Zander Blom
    Untitled [1.99]

  • Lionel Smit; Untitled #3

    Lionel Smit
    Untitled #3

Strauss & Co’s catalogue acknowledges the heightened interest by collectors in contemporary expression. There are fine examples of work by contemporary painters Wayne Barker (Zulu Lulu, estimate R30 000 - R50 000), Conrad Botes (Forensic Theatre: Empire of Error, diptych, estimate R60 000 - R80 000), Norman Catherine (Moonshine I & II, estimate R160 000 - R200 000 each), Penny Siopis (The Sheep in the Meadow, estimate R60 000 - R80 000) and Alfred Thoba (Jazz Club, estimate R20 000 - R30 000).

  • Wayne Barker; Zulu Lulu

    Wayne Barker
    Zulu Lulu

  • Conrad Botes; Forensic Theatre: Empire of Error, diptych

    Conrad Botes
    Forensic Theatre: Empire of Error

  • Norman Catherine; Moonshine I

    Norman Catherine
    Moonshine I

  • Norman Catherine; Moonshine II

    Norman Catherine
    Moonshine II

  • Penny Siopis; The Sheep in the Meadow

    Penny Siopis
    The Sheep in the Meadow

  • Alfred Thoba; Jazz Club

    Alfred Thoba
    Jazz Club

The catalogue also includes lauded mixed-media artists Esther Mahlangu (African Venus, estimate R30 000 - R50 000) and Billie Zangewa (Working Nights, estimate R30 000 - R50 000).

  • Esther Mahlangu; African Venus

    Esther Mahlangu
    African Venus

  • Billie Zangewa, Working Nights

    Billie Zangewa
    Working Nights

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