Pierneef paintings directly from artist's family make market debut at African Art Sale

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Pierneef paintings directly from artist's family make market debut at African Art Sale
Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966), Zululand. Estimate: £600,000-800,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- An exciting collection of paintings by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957), offered directly from the artist’s family, will see the market for the first time at Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary African Art sale. The landscape, culture and history of South Africa has remained a rich source of inspiration to its artists, none more so than Pierneef, who will take centre stage at Bonhams’ Modern & Contemporary African Art sale in New Bond Street, London, on Wednesday 19 October. The 102-lot sale will showcase the talent that has emerged from continent of Africa over the last century. Further contributing to a strong selection of South African art are works by Irma Stern, Vladimir Griegorovich Tretchikoff, Gerard Sekoto and Dylan Lewis.

Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams Group Head, Fine Art, U.K, commented, “Pierneef is undoubtedly South Africa’s foremost landscape painter. We are delighted to be offering such a large collection that demonstrates the originality and innovation of his approach, enlivening a traditional genre with modernist techniques. It adds to a strong group of work from South African artists in general.”

In his stylised landscapes, Pierneef mythologises the terrain by stitching together and embellishing small sketches he made on his extensive travels. In The Wolkberg, estimate £200,000-300,000, painted in 1944 after his reputation was established, Pierneef transforms a mountain range located in the Limpopo Province in the north of the country with his imaginative use of colour, building a national landscape tradition upon his own unique perspective.

Landscape, estimate £50,000-80,000, depicts a more sombre scene, a tree against a sky in muted shades. The tree is a willow, an enduring influence in his work, about which Pierneef remarked “I know every bend in its trunk or its heavy branches. I could draw by heart every gnarl in its bark’.

Other Pierneef works in the sale include:

• Sunlight Through the Trees, estimate £40,000-60,000
• Trees at Dusk, estimate £30,000-50,000
• Veere, estimate £15,000-20,000

An important work in the oeuvre of Irma Stern (South African, 1894-1966) leads the sale. Zululand, which appears in the background of an archival image of the artist in her studio, has an estimate of £600,000-800,000. The painting was produced at a transitional moment in her career, when Stern noted that Black communities in South Africa were beginning to abandon traditional cultural and social practice. The dynamic, bright and bold Zululand paintings mark a break from the more relaxed compositions of the 1920s. Zululand uses a landscape format to accommodate four figures, and notably lacks narrative or specific ethnographic detail.

The skill in still life painting that Stern developed is clear in Magnolias, which has an estimate of £400,000-600,000. The background is the same canary yellow as the walls of her studio, a space where she created many of her most famous works, while the Chinese stoneware vase recalls examples held in her collection.

Other works by Stern in the sale include:

• Siesta, estimate £100,000-150,000
• Still life of fish, estimate £50,000-80,000

Gerard Sekoto’s (South African, 1913-1993) Three Children has an estimate of £100,000 - 150,000. Completed in 1967, this work shares the blue palette of his series of bust portraits, which were primarily of women. Sekoto uses his technique of arranging the scene around a point of warmth, in this case the intriguing red globe. The work bears excellent provenance, having been acquired by art collector and personal friend Paul Koston. It was completed soon after Sekoto’s return from Senegal. Three Children may well have been a product of this highly influential visit. He had remained there after the International Festival of Negro Arts, ultimately holding an exhibition at the Théâtre Daniel Sorano. During this period, he experimented with his signature blue palette while recording his encounters with the Senegalese people, bringing the paintings and sketches he made back to Paris.

Other South African highlights from the sale include:

• Gerard Sekoto, Woman crossing the road, estimate £50,000-80,000
• Walter Battiss, Lines in the desert, circa 1966, estimate £15,000-20,000
• Dylan Lewis, Striding Tiger, estimate £60,000-80,000
• Gerard Sekoto, The Penny Whistlers, estimate £50,000-70,000

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