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An unrivalled richness of post-war paintings tops Strauss & Co’s spring offering

Strauss & Co is pleased to announce advance details of a special artist focus on Erik Laubscher and Claude Bouscharain, two quintessential Cape painters, in its forthcoming live virtual auction, due to take place on 11-12 October 2021. The spring sale includes important historical paintings by auction perennials like Laubscher, Adolph Jentsch, J.H. Pierneef, Stanley Pinker and Irma Stern, as well as sculptures by Dylan Lewis and William Kentridge.

The high-value paintings in this sale collectively tell the story of South Africa’s emergent post-war art scene, which culminated in singular works such as Preller’s Boy with a Crocodile. Executed at mural-like scale, this dazzling 1965 work combines symbol, blazing colour and surprising pattern. Painted two decades later, Pinker’s breezy composition Me and You and a Dog Named Boo is a symbol-laden portrayal of an elderly couple.

These works by Pinker and Preller will all be offered together with Stern’s 1958 study of a congested Andalusian waterfront, Fishing Harbour, Algeciras in the culminating session of Strauss & Co’s two-day auction. This fifth and final session includes three sought-after Lewis cat sculptures, including Sitting Cheetah Pair. This premier session begins at 6pm on Tuesday, 12 October with a consecutive offering of works by a much-loved Cape artist couple who met in Paris.

“Claude Bouscharain and Erik Laubscher were true doyens of Cape painting,” says Bina Genovese, Strauss & Co’s joint managing director. “The concluding session of our spring auction will commence with a showcase of eight examples of these two artists’ work. Spanning five decades, we hope this presentation will offer collectors an insight into their extraordinary entwined creative journey.”

Laubscher, who studied painting in Paris, went through many stylistic phases. The sale includes two examples of his School of Paris still lifes made shortly after his return home in 1951. The double-sided composition Still Life with Papaya/ Still Life with Lemons bears out Walter Battiss’s description of Laubscher as a “compelling” painter able to “paint big canvases with satisfying assurance”. Still Life with Fruit and a Blue Jug showcases the jouissance and vigour with which Laubscher approached his canvases.

Collectors equally prize Laubscher’s later Cape landscapes. The sale includes three late-period representational works made between 1998 and 2002. Dorre Landskap, Klein Karoo and Storm Clouds near Prince Albert reveal Laubscher’s attraction to grand vistas and his architectonic understanding of space. Summer Dawn near Laingsburg shows Laubscher’s unadulterated passion for colour.

When he returned to Cape Town from Paris, Laubscher was newly married to artist Claude Bouscharain. Strauss & Co will present two works by Bouscharain. Completed in 1969, Adam and Eve Expelled from the Garden of Eden is a strikingly modern and geometric rendition of the Biblical parable of exile. Dated 1981, To The Morning is a bacchanalian study of a swimming couple toasting the new day with red wine. 

The sale features six lots apiece by Laubscher and Robert Hodgins, prolific artists whose careers started in the early post-war and extended into the twenty-first century. In attitude and output, Laubser and Hodgins embodied two opposing city-based traditions in South African painting. Laubscher was from Cape Town, South Africa’s first city, a place of liberal ease and patrician manners. By contrast, Hodgins embodied the restless energies of Johannesburg, a new city of new people.  

The Hodgins consignment is led by fine examples of his late style. Two Figures depicts a dissolving pair of figures against a dominant pink ground. Pink was frequently on Hodgins’ palette and this work from 2000 dates from a pronounced pink phase. Completed in 2008, Three Nudes and a Naked Man is a beach scene executed in mustard and orange. The work explores the English language distinction between being naked and nude.

The highlight of five Kentridge lots on offer is the rotating bronze Sculpture for Return (Commendatore Naso). Works by Bell, Hodgins and Kentridge will be presented to collectors in a standalone session devoted to contemporary art, scheduled for Monday, 11 October at 6pm. Highlights from this exciting session include an artist focus on Esther Mahlangu, a Turiya Magadlela assemblage painting and wire-and-bead sculpture by Igshaan Adams. 

The two-day sale will also feature an extensive catalogue of collectable pieces assembled by experts from Strauss & Co’s decorative arts department, details of which will be announced in a separate media statement. Strauss & Co’s marquee spring auction will be prefaced by a standalone sale organised by its wine department. This sale will profile a trio of prestigious South African producers – Alheit Vineyards, Sadie Family Wines and Vilafonté – and commences at 10am on Sunday, 10 October 2021. DM

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