Strauss & Co’s premier evening sale on Tuesday, 16 May 2023, draws attention to the enchantment of South Africa’s delicate floral kingdom and its influence on the genre of still life. The catalogue for this live-virtual auction, which bookends the vibrant programme for Johannesburg Auction Week (14 – 16 May 2023), includes 22 examples of still-life paintings, many of them gorgeous flower studies, by a cohort of modern and contemporary artists.
Irma Stern’s ravishing composition, Still Life with Dahlias and Pumpkin (estimate R10-12 million/ $546 230-655 476), leads the selection. It also fittingly illustrates the cover of the 104-lot catalogue for the sale, which will be live-streamed from Johannesburg. Painted in 1944, in what is regarded as Stern’s golden period, this commanding still life is complemented by outstanding modernist examples of still lifes by Pranas Domsaitis, Maggie Laubser, Erik Laubscher, Freida Lock, Frans Oerder, Alexis Preller, Jean Welz and Pieter Wenning.
William Kentridge’s mixed-media work on paper Iris II (estimate R500 000 – 600 000/ $27 307 – 32 768) is one of three flower studies in the sale by this master draughtsman. It shows the still-life genre’s robust health in present-day South Africa. The still-life focus is fully elaborated in a thematic preview in Strauss & Co’s dedicated gallery at 89 Central Street, Houghton. The -preview runs until the day of the auction, 16 May 2023.
“The still-life focus draws attention to an important and valuable group of works in the catalogue for our marquee Johannesburg auction,” says Bina Genovese, Managing Executive, Strauss & Co. “Our aim is to draw collector attention to the tradition of still-life painting in South Africa, as well as to highlight how it has been a site of experimentation and success for many generations of artists.”
The catalogue features many attention-grabbing works in the genre. They include an early, high-expressionist work by Irma Stern from 1925, Arum Lilies and Bananas (estimate R2 – 3 million/ $109 324 – 163 986). Painted in 1948, Erik Laubscher’s Still Life with Black Jug, Apples, Book and Tureen on a Table (estimate R1 – 1.5 million/ $54 649 – 81 974) is a stunning example of his early, School of Paris style.
The still-life consignment includes works from important collections, notably two works by Irma Stern and Maggie Laubser’s Still Life with Pumpkin, Pears and Flowers (estimate R200 000 – 300 000/ $10 933 – 16 400). One of the oldest works in the focus is Pieter Wenning’s Vase of Flowers (estimate R250 000 – 350 000/ $13 658 – 19 120), which was gifted to the current owner’s grandfather by the artist.
The timeline of still-life works in the auction extends from the early twentieth century up to the 2010s. Ten Box Trap (estimate R100 000 – 150 000/ $5 465 – 8 196) by Cape Town painter Simon Stone presents an assembly of discarded cardboard boxes and offers a thoroughly contemporary take on the still-life genre.
“In addition to our vibrant consignment of still lifes, our catalogue includes extraordinary sculptures that affirm the range and depth of three-dimensional practices in this country,” says Dr. Alastair Meredith, Head of the Art Department Strauss & Co. “We have three works by Anton van Wouw, including two pre-WW1 castings by the Nisini foundry in Rome.”
Anton van Wouw’s Shangaan (estimate R600 000 – 800 000/ $32 768 – 43 750), which portrays a Mozambican man with crossed arms, was conceived and first modelled in the artist’s Doornfontein studio in Johannesburg in 1907. The adventure writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle owned another edition from the prized Nisini batch of Shangaan castings. “This dignified, gentle and personal portrait of a Shangaan man is a weighty and significant statement,” says Alastair Meredith.
The sculpture consignment also includes eight works by post-WW2 trendsetter Edoardo Villa. They include a bronze panel for the fountain at Killarney Mall, which opened in 1966 (estimate R300 000 – 500 000/ $16 400 – 27 307). There are also two bronzes by Dylan Lewis, who is celebrated for his expressive contemporary interpretations of big cats. Leopard Pair Maquette (estimate R600 000 – 700 000/ $32 768 – 38 330) explores a popular theme of coupling in South African sculpture that is also evident in two works by Villa, as well as Norman Catherine and Anton Smit.
The still lifes and sculptures mentioned in this press release will be offered to the public on Tuesday, 16 May 2023 at 7pm. The sale concludes Johannesburg Auction Week, Strauss & Co’s vibrant programme of auctions and public preview. Johannesburg Auction Week runs from 14 to 16 May 2023.
WHAT’S ON – JOHANNESBURG AUCTION WEEK
WALKABOUT – 10:00 Sat 13 May 2023
FAMILY DAY & WALKABOUT – Sun 14 May 2023
10:00 Children’s art workshop – 20 slots available
12:00 Children’s art workshop – 20 slots available
LIVE VIRTUAL AUCTION – Rare and Fine Wine from Italy and Spain: 11:00am Sun, 14 May 2023
TIMED ONLINE AUCTION – Azaria to Zereffi: Selected Works from a Family Collection: Opens: Monday, 8 May from 8am – Closes on Mon 15 May 2023 from 2pm
LIVE VIRTUAL AUCTION – Modern and Contemporary Art : 7:00pm Tuesday, 16 May 2023 (Drinks and final viewing from 6pm)
PREVIEW – Tuesday 8 May – Tuesday 16 May 9am – 5pm
VENUE – Strauss & Co, 89 Central Street, Houghton