Bushveld Scene with Trees and Anthills, a landscape painting by the famous South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef topped South African Art Sale in London, selling for US$110,399. Image: Bonhams
LONDON- Expectations were high before the South African Art Sale at Bonhams, London that The Red Dress by one of South Africa’s Irma Stern would be the top seller at an auction that was filled with excitement weeks before it happened. Disappointingly, those who were expecting the painting to make record auction prices got their hopes shattered as the painting ended up unsold. That setback, however, did not stop collectors who competed to buy some of the amazing artworks on display during the South African Art Sale.
Topping the South African Art sale is Bushveld Scene with Trees and Anthills, a landscape painting by the celebrated South African artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef. At the foreground of the painting is a tree with all its branches spread across the canvas. In the middle ground and distance are more trees. Under the trees are anthills of various sizes. The painting with its beautiful harmonious color rendition is one of the important signatures of Pierneef’s paintings. Bushveld Scene With Trees and Anthills sold for US$ 110,399 (£81,250) inc. premium at the South African Art Sale.
Congolese Maid, an oil on canvas painting by Gerard Sekoto is another top seller at the South African Art Sale in London. Painted around the 1960s, a period colloquially referred to as Sekoto’s ‘Blue Head’ period, the painting is a portrait of a woman done in Ultramarine blue. This painting is just one in a series of portraits by the artist based on this theme. He produced a number of these portraits in blue and black paint, picking out the areas of high relief, including cheekbones, the ridge of the nose, the forehead in white. This approach to creating the portraits and the selection of colors the artist notes allowed him to create stronger contrasts than if he used a more naturalistic palette. In a letter to Barbara Lindop dated May 6, 1986, Gerard Sekoto explains his process:
The poster colours I used were thick, but could be diluted very thin, almost like water colours when needed. But seeing they were thus thick, I took advantage and used them almost as oil…the reason for my using the blue was merely because I chose it and that it was sufficiently strong to contrast with warmer colours. Also I could make it into various tones with white and could vary other colours with it. Yet I just felt it dominant to use for the positive expressions of my heads
Although Irma Stern’s The Red Dress was not sold during the South African Art Sale, some of her other artworks got collectors on the edge of their seats. Zanzibar Street Scene, a gouache painting sold for US$ 67,938 (£50,000) inc. premium. The painting depicts a market with terracotta vessels on tables. The vivid colors and flowing brushstrokes communicate a sensuousness to the breathy excess of Stern’s textual description.