PORTRAIT OF A GIRL WITH HEAD SCARF HOLDING A PUMPKIN
54 by 44cm
R350 000 – R550 000
signed oil on canvas Delmont, L. and Marais, D., Maggie Laubser: Her Paintings, Drawings and Graphics, Perskor Publishers, Johannesburg, 1994, illustrated on p 246 cat no 888
Meintjes, J. Maggie Laubser, Jacques Dusseau and Co, Cape Town, J. H. de Bussy, Pretoria, 1944, illustrated on p 11
Maggie Laubser has consistently remained on the top selling list of South African artists, and as a female artist, is second only in this achievement to her contemporary, Irma Stern. Like Stern, Laubser’s output was prolific, and both artists experienced the heady thrill of Berlin in the 1930s meeting the movers and founders of the expressionist school. Although Laubser met Max Pechstein, she was not taught by him, instead finding a mentor and supporter in the leading expressionist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, amongst other German colleagues. Both Stern and Laubser travelled extensively throughout Europe, and for a brief period of time, travelled together in Germany. Laubser returned to South Africa to record what she saw around her in the idyllic, yet lonely life she encountered on her family’s rural Cape farm. The subsequent careers of Laubser and Stern diverged significantly, however, and they became fierce competitors.
Portrait of A Girl with Headscarf Holding a Pumpkin, lot 774, reflects the life of a young farmworker in the milieu of a bountiful harvest epitomised by the giant pumpkin that almost engulfs her. This is an important early work in the genre of the “Poetic folk-lore imagery for which she is renowned.” Painted in 1941, it was exhibited in her seminal exhibition at the Constantia Gallery in Johannesburg in 1946, a time when the artist had “staked out her artistic territory: a world of simple images in which the harmony of her unsophisticated and untroubled youth survive.” It is illustrated in both the Catalogue Raisonné of the artist’s work and the 1944 publication on Maggie Laubser by her great friend and fellow artist, Johannes Meintjes. By the time this work was exhibited at the Constantia Gallery, Maggie Laubser had begun to achieve a relative measure of success; in this same year she was awarded the Medal of Honour for Painting from the South African Academy for Science and Art, making her the first woman ever to have received this accolade.
A lifelong and constant concern of the artist was the struggle to make a living. As portraiture offered the possibility of commissions, it soon became her genre of choice. “She completed many portraits during the late 20’s and early 30’s – strong, positive portrayals- in all of which her sympathetic awareness of the human being behind the features is a conspicuous aspect of the work. A certain melancholy haunts these faces and suggests they are as much a portrait of the artist as of the individual sitter.”
The large charcoal work on paper, Vrou Voor Visserhuisies, lot 775, was exhibited at the Prestige Retrospective Exhibition of Maggie Laubser held at the South African
National Gallery in 1969 and exhibits the humble life led by the fishing community in her home town of Strand. Four years after this retrospective exhibition, Maggie Laubser died in her coastal home, leaving a pictorial legacy of hundreds of works reflecting her vison of an idyllic African world. As curator, Hayden Proud has noted
“She embarked upon an interior journey and a communion with nature and its cycles; this resulting in a body of work that is unique in South African painting. Referring to this period in her old age she stated that ‘Everything I know the farm has taught me – not study abroad‘.”
- Berman, E., Art and Artists of South Africa, A. A. Balkema, Cape Town, 1974, p 175
- Delmont, L. & Marais, D., Maggie Laubser: Her Paintings Drawings and Graphics, Perskor Publishers, Johannesburg, p 246 cat no 888
- Meintjes,J., Maggie Laubser, Jacques Dusseau and Co., Cape Town, 1944, p 11
- Proud, H. Revisions: Expanding the Narrative of South African Art, UNISA Press, 2006, p 64