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Distinction and diversity a hallmark of Strauss & Co's upcoming Johannesburg sale

  24 October 2017     Archived

The diverse artistic traditions from KwaZulu-Natal receive a special focus on Strauss & Co's coming Johannesburg live auction, due to be held at the Wanderers Club on 13 November. The sale, which also includes a selection of remarkable highveld landscapes and rare wartime South African artworks, contains 59 lots by historical and contemporary artists from the Zulu kingdom.

KwaZulu-Natal has an especially rich tradition of painting. The consecutively arranged lots in Strauss & Co's live auction showcase the strong influence of British Modernism on earlier painters, as well as the unavoidable regional influence of Zulu motifs, vernacular pattern and uninhibited colour combinations on artists from the region.

"The development of prominent and gifted artist-families is particularly notable in the province," says Alastair Meredith, a specialist who heads up Strauss & Co's Johannesburg art department. "The four generations of Everard women need little introduction, of course, but the Heaths, Alcocks and Taylors are perhaps not as widely known." All these illustrious families are represented in the sale.

Collaborative studios - like Ardmore Ceramic Studio, Rorke's Drift Arts and Crafts Centre and Vukani Arts Association - have also played a significant role in KwaZulu-Natal, giving a platform to talented artists and makers, while ensuring the endurance of traditional methods. Strauss & Co is pleased to offer maverick Ardmore sculptor Josephine Ghesa's hand-painted terracotta, Woman with Bird (estimate R30 000 - 50 000), and the Rorke's Drift tapestry Tree of Life (estimate R60 000 - 90 000), which was hand-woven in 1972 by Philda Majozi and Esther Nxumalo.

Highlights from the KwaZulu-Natal selection include self-taught painter Clement Sénèque's 1924 French alpine study, Aiguille Du Midi - Village et Glacier des Bossons (estimate R80 000 - 120 000); influential art teacher Jack Heath's oil on panel, Thornveld Equinox No 261 (estimate R100 000 - 150 000); Leonora Everard Haden's vertiginous landscape, Ntwantwani Met Wolkskaduwees (estimate R60 000 - 90 000); an early work by 94-year-old Eshowe painter Diamond Bozas, Still Life with Mealies, Bread, Onions (estimate R60 000 - 90 000); and Trevor Makhoba's 1998 landscape, Ntambanana Bus (estimate R80 000 - 120 000).

Strauss & Co's themed selections for its Johannesburg live auction includes 16 highveld landscapes by artists such as Frans Oerder, JH Pierneef, Gerard Sekoto, John Koenakeefe Mohl, Moses Tladi and William Kentridge. Painted in the early 1890s, Oerder's important Farm Bezuidenhout (estimate R300 000 - 400 000) depicts the historical farm Doornfontein, on which Johannesburg was founded. Sekoto's Women in the Country (estimate R2.5 - 3.5 million) is from the artist's career-defining Eastwood period.

The forthcoming sale also includes a selection of wartime South African artworks, notably from the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and World War II (1939-45). An accomplished illustrator, Dorothy Kay was one of the first artists to be employed as an official war artist in World War II: War News (estimate R450 000 - 550 000) is a testament to Kay's great observational skills.

Great excitement surrounds Alexis Preller's Fleurs du Mal (estimate R4-6 million), a transformative study of conflict that was long thought lost in a fire. In 1943, a year before Preller painted Fleurs du Mal, Irma Stern produced three portraits in quick succession of her friend and patron, Freda Feldman. Following on the May 2016 sale of Portrait of Freda Feldman in a Basuto Hat for R5 115 600, Strauss & Co's is thrilled to be offering the remaining two portraits from the trio: Freda with Roses (estimate R3-5 million) and Freda in Khaki Dress (estimate R3-5 million).

Since its establishment in 2009, Strauss & Co has distinguished itself for its ability to help collectors and estates dispose of important collections. Strauss & Co is delighted to be assisting Barloworld, a leading distributor of global brands and one of South Africa's oldest companies, to transform its historically important collection.

Highlights from the 35 lots on offer include three arresting landscapes: Keith Alexander's Petrified Land (estimate R700 000 - 1 000 000), from 1987; Adolph Jentsch's After the Rain (estimate R700 000 - 1 000 000), from 1939; and John Meyer's Miner's Cottage Pilgrim's Rest (estimate R500 000 - 700 000), from 1979.

The standout lot, however, is Irma Stern's Still Life with Poinsettias (estimate R4-6 million), from 1934. This work is of particular historical significance as it was exhibited at the 1936 Empire Exhibition in Johannesburg, an important turning point in Stern's professional career. Proceeds from the sale of artworks from the Barloworld Collection will go towards the regeneration of the group's cultural programme, which will focus on contemporary art and the development of new creative talent.

The popular figurative sculptor Danie de Jager, whose clients included Bill and Hillary Clinton, Shiekh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Michael Jackson and Robert de Niro, passed away in 2003. Strauss & Co is offering five bronzes spanning his career. They include Shawu (XL): One of the Magnificent Seven (estimate R450 000 - 600 000), a 49cm bronze based on the life-size elephant De Jager famously produced for the entrance to the Lost City Palace Hotel at Sun City.

Text by Sean O'Toole

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