Back To Auction View Of Cape Town – February 2017

Lot 760

Ruth Prowse


28 by 22cm

R30 000 – R50 000

signed with the artist monogram; signed in pencil on the reverse oil on board

Condition: appears good

Ruth Prowse, the daughter of English immigrants, was one of the early students of the Cape Town Art School under the directorship of George Crossland Robinson. After this initial training she went onto study at the Slade School of Fine Art as well as the Royal Academy under the tutelage of John Singer Sargent. Upon returning to South Africa in 1908, Prowse lent the knowledge she had gained by means of teaching, and a year later, by serving on the board of the South African Society of Artists. In 1923 she was elected the keeper of the Michaelis Collection at the Old Town House. This role was to have a profound impact not only on her artistic output, but on her advocacy efforts too, in her fervent work for the preservation of historic buildings in Cape Town.

Prowse’s artistic style is reminiscent of the 17th century Dutch golden age artwork with which she became so well acquainted in her work with the Michaelis Collection. Despite her role as a foundational member of the New Group, she did not introduce any sweeping stylistic innovations to the oeuvre of South African 20th century art, making her mark, instead, as a guardian of South African art interests, sitting on various important boards, including that of the National Gallery.

Passionately and intimately acquainted with Cape architecture, Prowse is best known for her intricate street scenes – a fine example of which is presented in lot 760 - producing scores of views of Cape Town and its people. Her works are characterised by tonal warmth, beautifully exhibited in A Cottage at Fanehoef, Lot 761, in which one can almost feel the embrace of a hot summer’s day. Rather than sharp contrasts, Prowse’s palette is one of careful grading, with its pinky oranges and blues providing the accent notes. Her composition is sure, with shadows playing an important role, particularly in her street scenes. Her brushwork was direct, but not markedly impressionistic until fairly late in her life. She enjoyed the texture of paint, which she applied lavishly to her works.

- Berman, E., Art and Artists of South Africa, A.A. Balkema, Cape Town, 1974, p 245 & 246


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