The Hammer Worker, a bronze sculpture by Anton van Wouw topped the Bonhams South African art auction in London, selling for US$ 121,115 inc. premium. Image: Bonhams
LONDON-The Hammer Worker, a bronze sculpture by Anton van Wouw exceeded expectations at the recent auction of South African art in London. Held at Bonhams Auction House in London, the work surpassed estimates selling for £97,500 (US$ 121,115) inc. premium. It was estimated at ZAR1,340,000 -2,000,000 (£80,000-120,000).
Created in 1911, The Hammer Worker is one of the most recognizable sculptures by Anton van Wouw. It depicts an African miner devotedly working away at his craft. In his hands are a hammer and chisel. The works seem to draw a parallel between the artist and the miner. Their work is labor intensive and requires similar tools.
The Hammer Worker was just one of the works by the South African sculptor in the South African art auction in London. Another is titled The Mealiepap Eater created in 1907. Estimated at ZAR415,000-580,000 (£25,000-35,000), the bronze sculpture depicts a Shangaan man from a tribe that lived in southern Mozambique and in the Northern Transvaal or Limpopo province of South Africa. Siting on the ground, he reaches out to a pot and appears ready to eat his food. The man’s expression reveals a tired man ready for his meal. The sculpture was unsold at the end of the auction.
In 2015, Irma Stern’s Arab Priest, an oil on canvas painting was the top seller at the South African art sale in London. As expected, there was a great response when her work Harvesters got on the auction block. The painting was informed by her visit to Congo region in 1955, an area she had already visited twice during World War II when her German-Jewish heritage made it impossible for her to travel in Western Europe. The painting depicts several women on a field harvesting what looks like hay. Using a combination of blue, orange and grays, she captures the women at work. Estimated at ZAR1,120,000-1,600,000 (£70,000-100,000), the piece sold for US$ 100,929 (£81,250) inc. premium
Jacob Pierneef, Anton van Wous’s godson captivated many with his dramatic landscape paintings. Notable for his luminous evocation of South Africa’s Highveld, Jacob Pierneef paintings are in demand among collectors across the globe. In the South African art auction in London, he was represented by several works, one of which was Malutis. Estimated at ZAR670,000-1,000,000 (£40,000-60,000), the painting sold for US$ 54,346 (£43,750) inc. premium.
Many of the artists at the South African art auction are well-known in the auction world. One artist, perhaps, often overlooked is Robert Hodgins (1920-2010). An exceptional artist, Hodgins who was born in born in Britain settled permanently in South Africa in 1953, where he lived and worked there for the rest of his life. After years of portraying idealistic beauty, Hodgins made a shift in his creation, focusing on the reality of human experience. The Bus Stop painted in 1999 exemplifies that re/focusing on human suffering, everyday experience of South Africans and aesthetic. At the center of The Bus Stop is a woman. Slumped on the bench, knees splayed, the woman appears tired or drunk. Estimated at ZAR500,000-830,000 (£30,000-50,000), the painting sold for US$ 46,583 (£37,500) inc. premium.
Bonhams Head of South African Art, Giles Peppiatt, said, “The breadth of work in this sale demonstrates the strength in depth of South African art. The figurative pieces are especially impressive, with The Hammer Worker and The Bus Stop wonderfully, and movingly, portraying the human condition.”