Back To Auction View Of Cape Town – February 2017

Lot 764

Peter Clarke


27 by 38cm

R50 000 – R80 000

signed and dated 1950 mixed media on paper

Condition: appears good

Peter Clarke, an artist of humble origins began life in with very few opportunities in apartheid South Africa. His intellectual gifts, talent and determination to follow his deep interest in visual art led him to overcome many obstacles, which would finally win him international recognition. This same determination was made vocal at the opening of a major retrospective at the South African National Gallery in 2011 when he explained his principled fight in order to overcome racial exclusion. In the end he was victorious, and today the work of Peter Clarke is highly sought after and the subject of a seminal publication, Listening to distant thunder, the art of Peter Clarke, by art historians Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin.

In his mid-twenties, Peter Clarke abandoned the security of his job in the Simon’s Town naval yard to follow his calling as an artist. He had an early successful exhibition in District Six, which encouraged him to focus his life’s work around the belief that art could play an active role in social development, which resulted in him becoming a leading figure in the Community Arts Project in Cape Town.

We are privileged to offer a compelling selection of works form the artist produced in various media, including works on paper. Two important early works deal with his central focus, that of his community. The poignant, Back Street, lot 764, evokes an anxious moment within the difficult conditions of social inequity and poverty as a result of discriminatory policies in early apartheid South Africa. An important work, in dazzling tones of sea blue and red, it personifies the artist as a social commentator.

Windmills, lot 766, is a beautiful and correspondingly joyous work, expressing the artist’s ability to find happiness in everyday life, despite the socio-political turmoil around him. Brilliantly coloured, three school boys are absorbed in the whirling plastic windmills popular with Cape children at Christmas time, when the south-easterly winds roar.

Similarly, Evening Grazing, Teslaarsdal, Lot 765, exudes this same escapist quality. Out in the Overberg countryside, Clarke felt at peace and far removed from the turmoil of the city. It was here that he found himself inspired to paint his tranquil, yet decidedly modern pastoral scenes.

- Hobbs, P. & Rankin, E., Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke, Fernwood Press, Cape Town, 2014


About the Author: