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December 2009 - January 2010
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The Great Cellar, The Alphen Hotel, 13 Biermann Avenue

Alphen Drive, Constantia 7806 Rosebank 2196
PO Box 818, Constantia 7848 PO Box 52431, Saxonwold 2132
ct@swelco.co.za jhb@swelco.co.za

Stanley Pinker SUNTAN R672 000
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South African Art Times. Dec 2009 - Jan 2010 Page 3

The 2009 auction year in review

By Michael Coulson R52m for the year, while I make it SA art but arguably not part of the gest, indicating the impact this
slightly less, at about R48.5m. SA art market. newcomer had. However, even
Just how big is the SA art auction it may not be immune from hype:
market? Well, the only thing you Rosewitz, incidentally, tells me that Errors and omissions excepted, Strauss claims its sales topped
can be sure of is that any pub- Swelco’s total turnover (all depart- these figures are remarkably R100m. By my count, it grossed
lished figures -- including those in ments) in 2008 was R180m, so symmetrical. They show that in its just R91.5m from art, with another
this article -- will be wrong. Some it certainly took a big knock from first year Strauss & Co captured R4.8m from its first furniture and
reasons for this are unavoidable: Strauss. He admits Swelco had as near as dammit 50% of the art silver sales, at its Cape sale.
on the one side, it’s not uncommon to cut its dividends but says it’s auction market with the balance
for works not sold on the night to still profitable and well capitalised, split equally by Britz and Swelco . In a review of its year, Strauss
be sold afterwards by public treaty; flatly denying market rumours a Remarkably, too, some 45% came chairman Elisabeth Bradley cites
on the other, buyers caught away couple of months ago that he and in two of the first three sales of the some of the artists for whom the
by the excitement of the night may chairman Mark Kretschmer had year, Strauss’s inaugural sale and house achieved record prices:
subsequently renege (as appar- had to put in more capital. Turno- the Kebble sale. These were for Anton van Wouw, Irma Stern,
ently happened in large numbers ver is back to where it was in 2006 different reasons one-offs. Jean Welz (father, of course,
at the Paris sale of the collection of when they took over, which was of Stephan), Wolf Kibel, Frans
the late Yves St Laurent). 50% up on the previous year. - Oerder, Freida Lock, Dorothy

Neither of these events can be

captured in the price lists auction By my count, there were nine sales by the three major auctioneers in 2009, summarised in the table below:
houses put out immediately after
the sale, which are what media Month House Venue Sold by number# Sold by value* Gross revenue+
reports and the houses’ own PR
releases are based on. Nor are March Strauss Jhb 87 123 37.0
they generally publicised later, April Swelco Jhb 83 70 6.0
the failed “Tretchikoff” at Graham May Britz Jhb 92.5 101 50.6^
Britz’s sale of the Brett Kebble col- May Swelco CT 79.5 76 7.6
lection being a rare exception. The Aug Swelco Jhb 71 75,5 7.8
first event means that reports are Sep Strauss Jhb 73.5 102 23.5
understated, the second that they Oct Strauss CT 83 75.5 33.5
are overstated. Oct Swelco CT 70 93 14.8
Nov Swelco Jhb 77 107 12.3
Then, allowance must be made
for publicity-related hype. In Total 193.1
November, consultancy Artvault
estimated Stephan Welz & Co
(Swelco)’s art sales to that date at
R40m. Swelco told the Financial - This compares with a grossed- The Kebble sale was unique, and Kay, May Hillhouse and Edoardo
Mail that they were in fact R55m, up figure from Artvault of about there can be no doubt Strauss’s Villa. As highlights, she mentions
with another R15m expected in the R235m, though they work on Stephan Welz pulled out all the R7.24m, a world record for a Stern
November sale. hammer prices while, in line with stops and used his unequalled still life, R5.57m for Stern’s por-
international practice, my prices contacts to ensure an unprec- trait Carla, a world record both for
When I asked Swelco deputy include buyer’s premium. On a edented event. But for this, some the artist and an SA sculpture of
chairman Jack Rosewitz what comparable basis, the Artvault of the lots may have been held R946 900 for Van Wouw’s Noitjie
Swelco’s total 2009 turnover was, figure would probably be some- back from 2008, others may have van die Onderveld and a record
and how much of it was art, he put where above R260m. Artvault appeared later in the year and oth- R1.225m for Jean Welz’s Still Life
the total at R100m, of which about also includes some (but not all) of ers may not even have come on to Cezannesque.
R80m was art. By both Artvault’s the minor houses, like Pretoria’s market at all.
and my calculations, this is a sub- Bernardi Bros, as well as sales in Continued in Business Art
stantial overstatement. Artvault’s London, which it puts at R45m and Still, after Kebble, Strauss’s
figure would gross up to about are no doubt part of the market in sales were the year’s three big-

Ne w Ho m e Of f

& Sculpture Gallery


Gauteng & Mpumalanga Web: www.tlafoundry.co.za Email: theloop@worldonline.co.za

Tel: 086 1112473 or 27 (0)13 7512435
Erik Laubscher
Page 4 South African Art Times. Dec 2009 - Jan 2010

Landscapes and legacy

This December, the artist, cultural activist, educator and big-time contributor
to the local artistic scene can, with satisfaction (and no doubt a degree of
A long-awaited biography and retrospective at nostalgia), look back at those heated days. He’ll have good reason, for his
SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch long-awaited biography has finally been elegantly published, and a decent
retrospective exhibition is accompanying the launch at the SMAC gallery in

For all his importance in South African art, up to now no book has been
published about this man who started the famous Ruth Prowse School of
Art (1971), founded the Artists’ Guild, the Artists’ Gallery (1965), the
Cape Arts Forum (1980), and served for many years in the then dynamic
SA Association of Arts.
His art, its themes and execution, have not been thoroughly engaged with
from an art-historical point of view. This is put right by Erik Laubscher: A
Life in Art by Hans Fransen. Accompanied by the retrospective, it has been
published by the SMAC where the exhibition continues until
Fransen’s book finally records Laubscher’s personal history, and it tells a
colourful and adventurous story. The book also has contributions by Elsa
Miles and Abraham de Vries.
If he couldn’t get the Cape Town city council to put up nicer Christmas
lights, Erik Laubscher’s contribution to the local scene is to be found in
many places.

Many lollers on Sea Point’s promenade have been puzzled by the facade
of Bon Esperance, a tall, elegant apartment building on Beach Road. The
eye-catching mosaic facade of dancing spikes and spooky figures is Laub-
scher’s work, a memorable invention of 1958.
The 32-year-old artist, who had been taught and deeply inspired by the
famous French painter and teacher Fernand Léger, called it Terrazzo Mural.
It serves as apt Cape public marker. Also because the Laubschers had
been residents in the neighbourhood for decades. (He and his wife Claude
Bouscharain live famously in Green Point’s Cheviot Place.)
Another important public work hangs in the foyer of the Artscape performing
arts complex on the Foreshore. Commissioned for the inauguration in 1971,
the large bright and colourful tapestry is one of the few of those original
One of the first things the hot-headed leader of the newly-formed Artists’ artworks that today still has an eye-catching presence.
Guild did in 1979 was to appeal to the Cape Town city council to upgrade
the annual ‘festive lights’ in Adderley street to something somewhat better- Over the years, the artist has had numerous commissions and sold major
looking, and of a little more aesthetic worth. Three decades down the line, pieces to collectors. Among the public collections on his CV are those
the kitsch and silliness that stare us in the face in the Mother city’s main of Sanlam, Sasol, the Iziko SA National Gallery, SABC, Standard Bank,
drag this December, is sure to irritate Erik Laubscher as much as then. the Rembrandt Art Foundation, SA Reserve Bank, CSIR, Investec, KWV,
(That fight against bureaucracy and foolishness was never won, but it was Telkom, Didata, and the Deutsche Bank. (A few years ago, the post office
only one among many he did walk out as victor.) used two of his paintings from the SANG collection on stamps).
South African Art Times. Dec 2009 - Jan 2010 Page 5

magnificent surrounding mountains by the age of seven. (Given his
legacy as landscape artist, this is significant.) At the age of nineteen, he NAE WO!UR
started formal art studies under the well-known Maurice van Essche’s
Continental School of Art in Cape Town. A year later, he left for London for

further studies. FOR
The years 1948 and 1949 were valuable, as Fransen records, for he
studied portrait drawing under Frank Slater at the Anglo-French Centre. ON A RANGE OF FINE ART AND PHOTO MEDIA
Laubscher has said that that taught him “to see things properly, to realise
that the basis for drawing, is direct observation”.
In 1950 he settled in Paris where studies under the famous artist Fernand
Léger at the Académie Montmartre proved to be of great significance in CUSTOM WALLPAPERS
his future career and later life. He also met his wife-to-be, artist Claude
Bouscharain, here. Post-war Paris had a great influence on the enterpris-
ing, enthusiastic artist before he returned to Cape Town in 1952.
Our Cruse Scanner is the finest large format
Since then he and Claude have been a constant and dynamic presence scanner available in the world today and will
in the Mother City, raising a family, carving out careers and, importantly, image your art and artifacts in resolutions and
contributing munificently to the local cultural environment. For decades clarity never before possible.
now, as writer Abraham de Vries colourfully records in the book, the
In February this year, Erik Laubscher turned 82. He is as breezy and couple has lived in their well-known house in Cheviot Place. It’s speed and efficiency allows us to offer very
clear-eyed as ever and has keenly co-operated with Fransen on the book attractive pricing and we are happy to discuss your
and the curators of the SMAC show. Earlier this year, in March, he got a Images courtesy of the SMAC Art Gallery. special requirements.
shock. It made the news that a Erik Laubscher painting, the 1953 Still-life Go to www.smacgallery.co.za for more details. Photo: Steve Kretzmann
We also run the finest digital printing technology
with mandolin, sheet music and fruit, was sold to an unnamed buyer for
R1.2 million in a hotly-contested Stephen Welz & Co auction at Kirsten- from EPSON for fine art reproduction and other
bosch. The Cape Times reported that the sale was a record-breaking large format requirements. (www.digigraphie.com)
amount for a living South African artist.
The artist told the newspaper he was dumb struck. He had given the
painting to a friend, who was emigrating to England way back, as a gift. R

This is typical of the artist’s life-long generosity towards others.

Although the high price (these days, foolishly, a major marker of an
artist’s stature) was a surprise, it was a signal. For all its superficial mean-
ing, it put him in the limelight, and confirmed his cultural status.
The SMAC gallery, of course, had drawn particular public attention to
Laubscher’s art in 2007 when it showed a remarkable painting that
Laubscher had made in 1969. Still-life with red pear, was included in a
top group show. His hard-edge landscape, Die Dam, from the same year,
The Old Biscuit Mill 375 Albert Road Woodstock Cape Town
was equally impressive on that exhibition.
Tel: +27 21 4481421 www.artlab.co.za
Frederik Bester Howard Laubscher was born in Tulbagh in 1927, and
the boy showed an early aptitude by making drawings of the town’s

May the miracle of Christmas

touch your heart
with peace and joy!

Mag die vreugde en vrede

van die Kersgety met u wees!

 

    


   

    
     
 
 
What speaks to me is the silence of the spaces of the world, and not merely silence itself, but what lies behind it. That is why I paint snow and vast
stretches of water, and skies, and deserts…the “feeling” of it suggests another dimension, which is nameless. It is this feeling that I have tried to portray.

Maud Sumner
Born / Died Johannesburg 1902 - 1985

Supplement to The South African Art Times

a short apprenticeship with the Sculptor Naom Arendson. She was during the war, she was delighted by the new movement towards ab-
eager to absorb as many compatible influences as possible. “I wanted stract expressionism. “It was exactly like looking through a window into
to get various ideas on art, not pick up the style of any one master, but to a bright new sparkling country.” She recalled. She had taken lessons
find my own.” She wrote. with Roger Bissiere (a father of abstract expressionism) but had not been
She had been drawn to Paris for years, but only once she had com- ready to incorporate his methods into her work until this stage.
pleted her masters in English Literature at Oxford and spent a year at the She used Bissier’s teachings in combination with the Rayonist technique:
Westminster school of Art in London, did she feel independent enough exaggerating the reflecting rays of light playing off the natural lines of ob-
to take the step. Her father had frowned upon of her dream of becoming jects, thus creating facets of space to which she gave colour and texture.
an Artist, insisting she get an academic training first. So once that was She played with these principles of light and colour in studies of all her
done, she found a job teaching at a boy’s school in Paris until she was subject matters from still lives and portraits to landscapes, discovering
supporting herself with her art. She wrote that, she found of Parisian art the shapes and patterns created in nature, taking them to the edge of ab-
–“a lively spirit of adventure- a richness in colour and perfection in taste straction but never completely abandoning reality. Paul Bercot – a friend
not found in the London school of painting.” She was passionate about and abstract painter also painting in Paris at the time, who was practicing
her art. It allowed access to part of herself, which she described both in a similar technique, was important influence in her use of colour. The
her poetry and her paintings: the spirit- like muse, whom she cherished, method allowed her to suggest a fourth dimension through her work.
and only met when there was sufficient peace and quiet and her mind She developed this conceptual technique for a period of over 10 years
was clear of the fuss and clutter of daily practical things. She overcame until the 60’s when the facets faded out from the elemental suns and
all obstacles in her need to paint, risking life and limb to paint in war, rain, moons she was painting in the late 50’s into her desert-scapes of the
snow and desert winds. (When caught painting watercolours in the rain, 60’s and beyond into hyper-realism in the 70’s.
she is reported to have incorporated the raindrops into her painting as
washes.) In later life when she was crippled by a rare illness, (Guillaume Artist’s Signature Style
Barre Syndrome) the hospital chaplain encouraged her to paint again.
Making this breakthrough helped her make a remarkable recovery. She
continued to work and be present at retrospective exhibitions until her In her earlier years in Paris, Sumner painted a number of portraits,
death in 1985. nudes, still lives and interiors in oil, however in terms of subject matter
For most of her life Sumner travelled between three homes. Ollerset- the it seemed that the idea of being all indoors was stifling as she always
colonial home of her birth and childhood, in Johannesburg, Eathorpe- an included a window a door or a vase of flowers representing nature to
ancestral home in Warwhickshire, England, and the various studio apart- Analysis of the Artist’s work/ Key influences escape out of. In spite of all her work on “Intimiste” interior studies, it
ments she kept in Paris and London. She said she “felt attached to each, was with water-colour snow-scapes, painted in England that she created
yet to a degree alien in all.” The fact that she was often abroad put her A French critic Paul Giniewski dubbed Maud Sumner “The Great Painter a stir at her first solo exhibition in Paris. Like English and French, water
out-on a limb from other South African artists of her time, and although of Silence” This theme echoed throughout her career as a painter. -colours were like her mother tongue, and oils were the language her
she did exhibit with “The New Group”- (having been invited by Walter Just as in her life, she travelled regularly between the intimate social study. She took oils more seriously, relishing their versatility and richness
Battiss,) she is often left out of retrospective collections of their work. settings of Europe and spacious landscapes of South Africa, Maud Sum- of colour and texture. However, watercolors were a more comfortable
Sumner was a loner and a traveller and her life and work are a reflection ner’s work explored polarities in subject matter. In her intimiste stage in form of expression and a meditation for her (and more portable.)
of these two major influences: her external world (in which she was an the 30’s and 40’s, as influenced by the French Intimiste masters Vuillard As she adapted her technique to accommodate her mood and develop-
international citizen- long before the internet and jet planes) and her and Bonnard as well as her teachers Denis and Desvaillier’s, her works ing maturity, Sumner’s painting style went through a series of major
internal world, which found her painting in solitary spiritual contemplation. in oils focused inward, mostly on cosy domestic interiors with bright pat- shifts. However, the fundamental character of her watercolours remained
Sumner’s life as artist really began in Paris, when in 1929, she shared a terned fabrics and flowers, usually incorporating a figure or reflections of almost constant. She was a sensitive artist, striving to capture the innate
house in the Rue Boulard (which had two interlinked apartments) - with herself in the mirror as some kind of enigmatic presence. character of whatever she was painting, whether it was a landscape, a
Spanish cubist painter Maria Blanchard. Blanchard was an established In the 60’s and 70’s she went to the other extreme, when she let go of person, or a vase of flowers. The only notable change in her watercol-
painter and very well connected. Sumner immersed herself in painting all boundaries and stretched outwards, painting from an aerial perspec- ours, is that in the 60’s and 70’s, when she was trying to achieve a sense
with the guidance of Blanchard. She was privileged to spend time with tive- as if with a birds eye view- looking down at borderless wide open of limitless space she abandoned the use of ink lines to accentuate form.
many of the artists who were pivotal to the development of pre-Second sea, sky and desert. But between these two points of her journey, there In her later years, Sumner found a happy medium between the abstract
World War art. According to Sumner’s Recollections of Paris (Published was an experimental phase in which she analyzed and played with rays and the figurative- having simplified the compositions, she sensitively
by Apollo- October 1975) - the likes of “Henry Mattisse, Eduard Vuillard, of light and planes of colour in a fragmentation of form to the point of described mood and the essence of the place, abandoning the details.
Severini and Claude came to the Rue Boulard.” During this time she abstraction. She now used thin layers of paint applications resulting in a sense of
took lessons at various art schools and with individual masters, including When Sumner returned to Paris after a 5 -year sojourn in South Africa depth and dimension, beyond the veil.
Portraiture Life in Paris

Muse, 72 Rue Notre Dame des Champs oil on canvas, Pretoria Art Museum.. In
this work is typical of her Intimiste phase, Sumner combines exterior an interior,
creating a tension of polarities-which add to the atmosphere and seem to describe
her state of mind. She includes a blurred reflection of herself as the artist in the
mirror, but the fragile seated figure of “the muse” is more dominant. Sumner often
Portrait of Lippy Lipshitz - oil on canvas – After it was exhibited on the 1942
used this doll- whom she named Louise- to personify the “whimsical muse” she
South African Academy, a reviewer for the Rand Dailey Mail called this painting of
describes in her poetry. Sumner had a dramatic relationship with her “muse”-
the South African sculptor, “Provacative”. Saying that she “captured the essential
claiming that she worked “inspirationally” rather than “intellectually,”
character of her subject and displays once more her happy knack of avoiding the
obvious in portraiture…a more deliberate technique might have lost her the subtlety
of the Puck-like smile.

Annihilating All That’s Made To a Green Thought in A Green Shade, Oil on

Canvas. . “This is not deformation, but formation or creation, transformed: - like
Self-Portrait- 1933 (oil on panel ) the inscription on this painting dedicates this a pot–as-its- individual–self to an object of art.” Said Sumner of this painting, in a
picture to her father. Her confident, loose painterly technique in oils, shows that by lecture on Modern Art in June 1950. In this landmark painting, which represents
the age of 31, she had already begun to master her skill as an artist and possibly a decisive shift away from her previous representational style, Sumner annihilates
wanted her father to accept her in this identity. space and depth of form – using white outlines to stylize and give the still life a
decorative design element-reminiscent of Mattiss and Georges Braque- who had
recently made an impression on her. (She met him at an opening and he invited
her to his studio.) The painting was described as “sensational advance of her past
achievement” by The Cape Argus 1950. (It was reserved for the Venice Biennale
of 1950.)

Portrait of the Artist’s Mother-

Sumner often found creative ways Red Venice- Oil on Canvas (Johannesburg Art Gallery) Sumner’s Rayonist-in-
to sign her work. In this portrait, she spired technique of extending imaginary rays of light from the lines created by
has signed her name on the book her forms to divide the painting in facets, and then finding criss-crossing planes of
(Top) The Painter, (Below) Self Portrait
mother is holding. colour in nature, is well illustrated by this painting of ships on water.
(Left) Drawing on rooftop, Johannesburg
Religious Work Inspiration from the Desert

Flight into Egypt – (oil on canvas) First shown in 1951, after the death of both
her parents, this bold painting is a statement of individuation. She breaks away Mary and Martha- oil on canvas.
from previous representational work using the Rayonist technique and bright Sumner’s interpretation of the conflict
colours in combination with this religious theme, it takes on the effect of a stain- between two types of humanity (and
glass window. The elongated donkey and rope are part of the deliberate horizantle has been interpreted as a portrayal of
emphasis, strongly crossed by the verticle figure of Mary and the baby. two very distinct aspects of her own
personality)- the one who seeks the
divine by contemplation and the other
who seeks it in action. However, most
mysterious is the reflection of a man’s
face in the mirror. Is he an admirer, Flight of the Flamingo’s- oil on canvas. Sumner used photographs as references for her desert paintings. This painting was
a lost brother, or could he be the shown on the exhibition in London in November 1969 entitled “Silence and Space.” She may have delighted in the way that
sub-conscious masculine aspect of the the collective birds in flight form the shape of a standing Flamingo, incidentally as they fly.
Artist herself?

Supper at Emmaus- oil on canvas . Created with the influence of her mentors at
Ateliers d’Art Sacre, Sumner permeates an every day scene, with religious undertones. (right) Pieta, oil on canvas

Sumner’s later Memory Paintings

Louise Writing a Love Letter – oil

on canvas – The Annunciation oil on
canvas, Union Buildings Pretoria. It is
a poignant reflection of an earlier work
“Louise writing a Love Letter.” She
has used the same setting – her trusty
mannequin muse Louise is seated in
deep contemplation, writing a mys-
terious love-letter, but in the memory
painting Sumner’s twinkle of humour
delights in zooming out to a broader
view of the room, to reveal an angel
standing near the table. Did Sumner-
who never married and remained a
lone traveller all her life, in painting
this picture want to show both her and
the world that she was not alone, and
never had been? Or was it a vision, of
her guardian angel making an appear-
ance at the sunset of her life.
Sun and Moon, Sahara – oil on canvas, Pretoria Art Museum. An example of her cosmic phase, in which she refined the proc-
ess of finding plains of colour and texture out of the lines of natural form, allowing them to play off each other in transparent
The Painter oil on canvas Johannes-
layers, creating an illusion of depth.
burg Art Gallery Painted around the
same time as “Muse, 72 Rue Notre
Dame…” except that it is reversed,
with the artist in the forground and the
manniquin in the background

(left and above) Sumner took

numerous trips into the Desert

(above ) Avion dans le Desert, oil

on Canvas (1953/4) Painted after her
first flight over the desert to Isreal.
The vantage point gave scope to
her the Abstracted style and concept
she was working with in playing with
Rayonist segmentation of shapes. It
marks the beginning of a new era - a
phase of cosmic paintings and desert
landscapes representing silence and
space- often from a birds-eye view.

(left) Still Life with Candle - oil on

canvas, Pretoria Art MuseumSumner
was eccentric in her signing and dating
of works. She hardly ever dated them
and sometimes did not sign them. This
The Listeners- Silence is the Deserts Song, One of her memory paintings, one is not signed, only dated -43- sig-
created near the end of her life. Sumner sits among a collection of her friends- (the nificantly the year that both her brother
people in the painting are recognizably close friends and family)- at what could be John and her great friend and mentor
a recital or church service. In the background the sun is setting on a desert horizon. Maurice Denis were killed.
By combining sketches with imagination – Sumner– made her dreams real through (above) Sumner in her studio, and at
her art. her retrospective show, Pretoria
Sumner’s Early Career Artist’s Commission: Stations of the Cross : 1953 - A year in the life of the artist
St Mary’s, Cape Town The early 50’s had been an emotionally and spiritually catalytic time for her. Her
Sumner’s fascination and love for French culture and her early ground-
brother had died in the war and her both parents died within a few months of each
ing in the language was probably inspired by the French Governess who
other in 1949 and 1950. Ollerset, her childhood Johannesburg home was donated
home schooled the Sumner children in their Johannesburg home. She to the Silesians who converted it into a convent, day care centre and shelter for
was a bright, feisty individual with a mischievous sense of humour. When homeless. She drew on religion for comfort in this time of confusion and worked
a young Maud turned a whole bowl of treacle over onto her little brothers a lot with religious subject matter. ( See “Flight into Egypt”.) She became much
head, her strict Edwardian parents decided that it was time for boarding bolder in her use of Rayonist principles, using natural lines to divide the picture
school! She was sent across town to Roedene girls school in Johan- in coloured facets, and moving further towards abstraction, although she was
nesburg where she was privileged to receive her first formal art classes not comfortable with letting go of reality. It is likely that she drew confidence and
from an excellent art teacher- who had trained at the Royal Academy in inspiration from her colleague, Alfred Mannessier- an abstract expressionist and
fellow pupil of Bissiere, It is not known what kind of personal relationship existed
London. She had begun painting at an early age - but at boarding school,
between them, but according to Frieda Harmsen- author of “Maud Sumner- Painter
Sumner’s keen business acumen showed its colours. She began trading and Poet”: “They were soul mates in that both were drawn to religious matter, saw
paintings and sculptures, with school- mates in exchange for favours potential of stained glass as a prototype for their painting and designed windows
such as having her socks darned! for churches. Both found spiritual solace in silence.
In 1953, on a pilgrimage to Israel, Sumner flew over the desert in an aeroplane
for the first time. The vantage point and view of the desert dunes awakened a free
Artistic Breakthrough spirit within her- allowing greater scope for abstraction and lead to her new phase
of painting desert landscapes and large tracts of sea and sky from a birds-eye
Sumner was set the road to being a professional artist, by her early years view.
in Paris at the Ateliers De Art Sacre. She chose this school not so much
because of its religious leanings, but because she loved the new style of
painting taught by the masters George Desvallieres and his co-founder
1953 in the world
Maurice Denis, where every day scenes are permeated with religious January 31 – February 1 – The North Sea flood of 1953 kills 1,835 people in the
under tones- the enigmatic “Supper with Emmaus” is an example of this. southwestern Netherlands (especially Zeeland), 307 in the United Kingdom
Sumner wrote in her memoirs: “Desvalliers and Denis complemented and several hundred at sea, including 133 on the ferry Princess Victoria in
each other as masters, the one being romantic and the other classic. the Irish Sea.
Desvalliers was full of enthusiasm, interested in the arabsque and hidden March 17 – The first nuclear test of Operation Upshot-Knothole is conducted in
emotion, Denis was more precise, a thinker, more able to explain to his Nevada, with 1,620 spectators at 3.4 km (2.1 miles).
March 18 – An earthquake hits western Turkey, killing 250.
pupils what he meant… Nothing was too much trouble for these two men.
March 26 – Jonas Salk announces his polio vaccine.
If their pupils were working seriously they were taken seriously.” April 25 – Francis Crick and James D. Watson publish their description of the double
Through these teachers, Sumner immersed herself in studying the works helix structure of DNA
of Serusier, Roualt, Odilon Redon, Cezanne, Renoir, Vuillard and others 9 May - The South African Liberal Party is formed in Cape Town by Alan Paton
of the Ecole de Paris and reflected their influences in her paintings. June 2 – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey.
Maurice Dennis helped arrange her first solo exhibition in 1932 at Galarie June 18 – Egypt declares itself a republic.
Druet. She showed 14 Water colours and 4 oils. After her friend- Maria August 8 – Soviet prime minister Georgia Malenkov announces that the Soviet Union
Blanchard, died, she returned to South Africa for a year. She held has a hydrogen bomb.
September 26 – Rationing of cane sugar ends in the UK.
successful solo exhibitions at Ashbeys in Cape Town and Lezard’s in
Johannesburg, receiving enthusiast reviews. She sailed back to Paris In
1934. Later that year, she sold 2 watercolours to the Hague Municipal Art Important artist’s dates
Gallery. In 1935 She held her first solo exhibition in London- showing 40
works. And In 1939, she became the first and only SA painter to have had 1902 16th September born in Johannesburg.
work bought for the State collection at the Jeu de Paume Gallery where it 1922-5 Sumner completed a Masters in Literature at Oxford.
1925 Studied at the Westminster School of Art in London.
hangs in the Museum of impressionist and Post impressionist art.
1926 Apprenticed with Sculptor Naom Arendson in Paris.
Then enrolled at the Ateliers d’Art Sacre.
Middle Career 1930- 12 November, She exhibited 2 pictures at the Salon d’Automne.
1931- 3 of her works showed at the Selles de Bains- and were singled out by the
reviewer of the French Times newspaper.
Her exposure to the great masters and the atmosphere of the Ecole de Setting of paintings in St . Mary’s Jesus falls for the second time, Jesus falls 1932 on the 16 April: First solo exhibition at Galarie Druet. Maria Blanchard, Spanish
Paris before the war, put her in a strong position to be among the first for the third time, Jesus is stripped of his clothes, Jesus meets his mother, cubist painter and Sumner’s best friend died. November She held her first
South African artists to bring change South Africa’s art legacy. Sumner’s Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross, Veronica comforts Jesus solo art show in South Africa at Ashby’s Gallery in Cape Town.
work was easily accessible, even to a more conservative public, who may 1933 April: Exhibited at lezard’s in Johannesburg.
have been averse to what they might have perceived as “vulgar” modern- 1934 Sold paintings to The Hague Municipal Art Gallery. Attended classes at the
ist styles at that time. During the war years, Sumner held 16 exhibitions in
Stations of the Cross Acadamie de la Grande Choumeire.
all the main centres of South Africa, and was seen by South African critics 1935 Solo exhibition held in Berkely Square, London.
Maud Sumner was vehemently apposed to “pretty” popular church art: “ It 1936 Visited Spain – inspired by El Greco. Painted pictures in Spain and
as a representative of the French intimiste style. (Although she was not
does nothing to confront people with the harsh facts of the Christian faith, exhibited them in Paris in group exhibition. Returned to Johannesburg for
actually the only South African artist painting in this style at the time.) a year- exhibited at Lezards in Johannesburg.
making no intellectual or spiritual demands on the viewers.” She said in a
By the 60’s Sumner had become a very popular and well-recognised art- 1937- Exhibited in South Africa in Johannesburg and Ashby’s Cape Town.
lecture to the Kolbe Association in 1952. She felt a need to educate and im-
ist, her painting selling out quickly at well-attended exhibitions in London, Exhibition at Ashbey’s in Cape Town.- Paintings were bought at this show
passion other Catholics about modern art, as she felt that they had become
Paris, Cape Town and Pretoria, and receiving rave reviews from French, for the SA National Gallery. In April participated in a group show with Irma
lazy and stagnant in their choice of only the old masters. She called this
English and South African art critics. In 1971, she was presented with Stern and two other artists. Also exhibited in Paris at Salon d’Automn.
“mental laziness.” 1938- Studied under Rogier Bissier at the Academie Ransom.-
the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns medal for paint-
Perhaps as a result of being so vocal about her opinions, she found herself 1938. 1939 – Became the first and only SA painter to have had work bought for the
ing. By this time Sumner had made the transition to painting wide-open
with the task of painting “Stations of the Cross.” When she was com- State collection at the Jeu de Paume Gallery for the museum of
landscapes, and deserts and skies, in veils of transparent colour, which
missioned, she was warned by John Paris Director of the South African impressionist and post impressionist art.
proved very popular with the South African public. 1941- Joined the ambulance brigade in England, then SA for 5 years during the
National Gallery- who had been advising the Archbishop, that it would have
Sumner’s religious public works are a part of her legacy often forgotten by war. Held 16 exhibitions in SA including some with the New Group.
to be a “labour of love because the most they could pay was five hundred
the art world. They grace churches and institutions all around the world, 1946- Returned to Paris to a Renaissance of Colour and began new era of
pounds for the whole job – which consisted of 14 panels -each 90 by 90
from Nigeria and Whales to England and South Africa. One of her major Rayonist expressionism which she refined throughout the 50’s.
religious works being 14 oil paintings entitled “Stations of the Cross” for 1949- Returned to SA and exhibited in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town,
She told friends that she was “terrified by the task,” but put her heart and Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Her father died at the end of this year.
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cape Town in 1961.
soul into the massive commitment. She consulted theological texts, sought 1950- Her Mother died in May.
Stylistically she was still working with elements of Rayonism but had
out other renderings of the “Stations,” and according to Frieda Harmsen, 1953: - Flight to Israel over the desert
muted the tones and softened the lines. She makes expressive use of
“visited a Christian visionary to hear how she had visualised Christ’s 1953 -78- Exhibited regularly in SA, London and Paris.
the abstract Rayonist radiating lines, to show emotional energy of each 1978 - Admitted to American hospital outside Paris with Guillian Barre Syndrome-
moment of the Stations of the Cross. For example they radiate sharply had to have a tracheotomy.
Sumner believed that “all art is Christian (or spiritual), whether the subject is
out from the agonizing nail as in Christ’s Hand. They crumple tiredly in 1979 Returned to Johannesburg Workers hospital to recouperate.
religious or secular because art is creative and therefore divine. “ Although
on him as he is dying and circling round as he is laid in his mother’s arms. 1981 Exhibition at the Hoffer Gallery in Pretoria sold most of the paintings before
she did not see herself as a religious painter, she had earned a reputation
Her intention was to make the story of the crucifixion real by presenting it opening.
due to the public showing of two major works, painted while in deep mourn- 1983 April: Her sister Dorothy died. She attended the opening of a retrospective
in a Cinematic style- so that the viewer would feel jostled along with the
ing after the death of close family members; “The Pieta” after the untimely exhibition of her paintings at the Hoffer Gallery. Pretoria.
death of her brother, (killed in action in Egypt in 1943) and “Flight into 14th of January 1985, she died at home.
Egypt” after the passing of both her parents in 1949 and 1950.) In the 50’s
End she became more comfortable with painting religious works and designed Bibliography
several stain glass windows for churches in Nigeria and Wales, as well as
As her life progressed, the dimension of spirit, increasingly became her two Madonna paintings for churches in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Maud Sumner- Painter and Poet – Frieda Harmsen. Published by J.L. van Schaik
Sumner wrote that her intention in creating the 14 oil paintings describing Unisa’s Maud Sumner’s in sequence- Frieda Harmsen – published in de arte 63
focus. Her art became a form of worship. “My paintings speak, while
Recollections of Paris- by Maud Sumner – Apollo New Series, Vol 102
remaining silent.” She explained. “The noisier the world gets, the quieter Christ’s journey to the cross was to “turn the focus on Chris –in an almost
No164 Oct 1975
my pictures become. Quiet pictures are the perfect escape,” Sumner told cinematic idiom -for example there are two “close-ups,” She wrote in her Maud Sumner and her Muse – Frieda Harmsen – a paper read to the
a reporter. notes to elecudiate The Stations of the Cross, “I wanted to show it as His SA Association of Art Historians Conference, Women and the Visual
“Every artist is a witness of his time,” wrote Paul Giniewski- after her saga-with the whole condemnation, journey and death of the Hero, giving Arts, Wits, 1990
desert paintings showed at the Jacques Massol Gallery in Paris in 1971, the spectator the impression that they are actually following Him on the road Maud Sumner- Charles Ellington, -Purnell & Sons, 1965
“The best way to be part of your time is to give it what it lacks, and not to Cavalary. To do this I have varied the size of the Christ figure. When he Art and Artists of South Africa, - Esme Berman- AA Balkema -1970
what it already has in abundance. Maud Sumner’s vision to this universe is near us He looks larger, and gets smaller as we are jostled back in the Mannessier Paris, - Jean Carol, Le Musee de Poche 1966
crowd.” The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Centuary Art- Harold Osborne-
of noise, confusion and clutter which leads to our destruction, is the vision
Oxford University Press 1981
of virgin space, of nature without man.” The works correspond stylistically to the elemental works of dunes, suns,
After recovering from Guillaume Barre syndrome – which left her wheel- moons, sky and water that she had been making in the late 60’s and early
chair bound and almost voiceless due to a tracheotomy, she managed 70’s, in which she was still employing abstract techniques, she had begun
her final “Memory paintings.” They were based on sketches she had in Paris in the eary 50’s. However, her of Rayonist inspired style had Researched and written by
made in previous years of scenes in years gone by combined fantasy developed to a stage colour was more subtle and the radiating facets and
scenario’s to create statements the ideal, sometimes with a twinkle in lines had softened and become intuitive tools of expression, movement and
her eye – her ever present sense of humour. (See Silence is the Deserts mood. For example, the lines radiate sharply outward from the agonizing Helena Doe
Song and The Annunciation.) She used soft colours and lines- probably nail as in Christ’s Hand, crumple tiredly in on him as he is dying and circle
because of her frailty, which gives them a dream- like quality. round to echo the intimate moment as he looks sadly at his mother before
his crucifixion.
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World Record Chairman’s Review

World Record
for a still life
Dr Strauss and I are indeed overwhelmed at the outstanding achievements
Strauss & Co. has accomplished in its first year of operation despite being the new
kid on the block, the recession and a highly competitive local and international
market. In one year, Strauss & Co. has become not only a name that speaks of
extraordinary art, as well as unparalleled expertise and service, but is also by
turnover the largest Fine Art Auction House in South Africa. Much of the success
Frans Oerder

of our sales can be attributed to the long standing relationship and trust the
directors and staff of Strauss & Co. have developed with collectors and dealers

Irma Stern
both in South Africa and abroad. We are grateful to our clients for their support
during 2009, our inaugural year.

SOLD R7 241 000

SOLD R1 782 400

Our vision of encouraging connoisseurship and passion at the top end of the local
art market, with a strong emphasis on quality, service and excellence is proving to
be a winning formula. This is due to our formidable team of world class art auction
specialists headed by the doyen of South African art auctioneers and experts,
Stephan Welz.
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Strauss & Co. hosted three sales in its first year of operation, two in Johannesburg
and one in Cape Town, generating a turnover of over R100 million of mostly high
end paintings establishing Strauss & Co. as market leader. Our market share is
currently nearly double that of our nearest competitor. We set numerous new
auction records for among others, Anton van Wouw, Irma Stern, Jean Welz, Wolf
Kibel, Frans Oerder and Freida Lock, Cape furniture and Paul Storr silver. Particularly
notable amongst these were:
• the highest price for a painting (Irma Stern’s Magnolias in an Earthenware Pot,

Jean Welz
Jean Welz

sold R7 241 000, a world record for a still life by the artist)

• the highest price for a sculpture (Anton van Wouw, Die Noitjie van die Onderveld,

SOLD R1 225 400

SOLD R1 225 400

sold R946 900, a world record for the artist)

• the highest price for a piece of Cape furniture (an 18th Century silver-mounted
Coromandel Buffet, sold R 1 058 300 establishing a new record)
• the highest price for an item of silver (a pair of George III silver wine coolers and
liners by Paul Storr, London 1819, sold R1 559 600)
After Stephan Welz’s sudden exit from the market in 2007 and subsequent
18-month trade restraint, there were no doubts in our minds that the South
African art market had lost its leader and mentor. Being seasoned collectors
and prompted by our passion for South African art, Dr Strauss and I approached
Stephan with a view to form a new auction house. We set off on our course to
create a sleek, solid and successful operation with Stephan and his formidable
Maggie Laubser

team as the key players in an attempt to give back to the market the credibility
and expertise it had lost. Francis Antonie, our then Managing Director, and Mary-
Jane Darroll were instrumental in laying the foundations. Strauss & Co. opened its

Irma Stern
head office in Houghton, Johannesburg in September last year to be followed by
the launch of the Cape Town operation in February 2009 and the opening of our

SOLD R5 570 000
SOLD R891 200

Newlands premises in May.

Our elegant offices in prime locations represent our vision of top quality and
excellence. Inspired by the marked move of International auction houses away
from the traditional Victorian image, Mary-Jane Darroll has achieved a gallery-style
minimalism that places the artworks centre stage with optimal hanging
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for a landscape

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and lighting considerations.
In our pursuit of rarity and quality, Strauss & Co. was entrusted with the sale of
several important works from private hands that were fresh to the market, either
acquired directly from artists or their estates or that had been out of the public
domain for years. These included Irma Stern’s Magnolias in an Earthenware Pot
(sold R7 241 000, a world record for a still life by the artist), Carla (sold R5 570 000),
Wolf Kibel’s arresting Self Portrait (sold R1 225 400, a world record for the artist) and
Jean Welz’s Still Life Cézannesque (sold R1 225 400, a world record for the artist). We

Freida Lock
Irma Stern

handled the most important piece of Cape furniture ever to appear at auction, an
18th century Cape silver-mounted coromandel buffet, establishing a new record
SOLD R5 792 800

SOLD R1 002 600
and a pair of 18th century wine coolers and liners, by master silversmith Paul
Storr which sold for three times its pre-sale estimate. The Leslie Milner Collection
comprising some 42 South African paintings achieved excellent results due in part
to our knowledge of the market and our exceptional marketing skills.
Strauss & Co. has done justice to several artists that have tended to be previously
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overshadowed achieving record prices for their work. These include amongst
others Frans Oerder, Wolf Kibel, Dorothy Kay, May Hillhouse and Edoardo Villa.
Although the works offered were exceptional examples of the artists’ work, the
fact that they were professionally presented to the market greatly enhanced their
final selling price.
Stephan Welz has been joined in Cape Town by the key staff from his former
company, Ann Palmer, Vanessa Phillips and Bina Genovese, all of whom have
Dorothy Kay

extensive experience and expertise in the auction world. Mica Curitz, silver
specialist, has followed suit and recently Emma Bedford highly regarded in the
Wolf Kibel

art world both locally and internationally has also joined us. In Johannesburg
SOLD R1 225 400

SOLD R1 448 200

Stephan is partnered by Mary-Jane Darroll who has considerable gallery and

auction experience.

Given this team I have no doubt that Strauss & Co. will in the future continue to
play an important role in the South African art market serving the best interests
of both sellers and buyers.
Record for
Cape Furniture

I should like to take this opportunity to wish all our clients compliments of
the season.
SOLD R1 559 600

SOLD R1 058 300


ENQUIRIES: +27 (0)11 728 8246 OR +27 (0)21 683 6560

Prices quoted are inclusive of buyer’s premium