Back To Auction View Of Cape Town – February 2017

Lot 814

Gerard Sekoto


26 by 36cm

R150 000 – R220 000

signed watercolour over pencil on paper

Condition: creases and losses in all four corners, large areas of pigment loss along bottom margin, tears measuring: 8cm on right hand margin, another also on the right measuring 2cm and a third measuring 1cm horizontal tear measuring 3,5cm half way across bottom margin, crease with losses measuring 8cm and another measuring 6cm 3 x 1cm tears along left margin further areas of creasing in the tree area, cockling due to the manner in which it has been laid down

Gerard Sekoto is largely regarded as a pioneer of modernism in South Africa. He was born at the Lutheran Mission station of Botshabelo, in the Northern Province. The son of a teacher, he demonstrated an interest in drawing from childhood. He, too, would later become a teacher, taking up a post at an Anglican school near Polokwane, which he thoroughly enjoyed. There he met the artist Ernest Mancoba, who encouraged him to further his interest in art by travelling to Paris. In1938, upon the death of his father, Sekoto left teaching and the rural north for good, broadening his experience by moving to Sophiatown in Johannesburg, and later, to District Six in Cape Town.

Sekoto began a new life as a full-time painter in Sophiatown, reflecting the urban intensity and excitement of his new milieu in the work he produced during this period. In 1940, the Johannesburg Art Gallery purchased one of his works, making Sekoto the first black artist to be acquired by the public collection. This formal recognition strengthened his resolve to succeed, which lead him to embark on a journey to France, the global cultural capital, in 1947. There, as an exile from the discriminatory practices of Apartheid South Africa, he enjoyed new recognition and success and had the opportunity to travel, learn and meet other artists while developing his work. This fruitful period in Paris was, however, tempered by the deep loneliness of exile. Eventually the South African authorities revoked his passport making it impossible for him ever to return to the land of his birth.

During the 1970’s while in exile in Paris, Sekoto frequently returned to his memories of South Africa, painting scenes of township residents busy with daily chores. Lot 813, a beautifully composed oil on board work entitled Figures Walking, draws on this aspect of his oeuvre and appears to be a recurring theme of statuesque women bearing loads on their heads in township streets. A similar work, although depicted frontally, is reproduced in Gerard Sekoto by Barbara Lindop, entitledWoman in the Street (1971).

The Artist in the Luxembourg Gardens, a captivating watercolour, epitomises the loneliness of an exile. The light drenched, skipping figures of two young girls passing the darkened figure of the artist in the shadows of a park bench is a poignant reminder of the sadness and longing Sekoto must have felt in an alien society.

Represented in major collection in South Africa and Europe, the voluminous contents of Gerard Sekoto’s atelier in Paris, spanning his life’s work, was left to our nation in 2000 by the Sekoto Foundation and the South African and French Governments. It is presently entrusted to the Iziko South African National Gallery, where it can now be seen.

- Lindop, B. Sekoto: The art of Gerard Sekoto, Pavilion Books, London, 1995, p 26
- Lindop, B. Gerard Sekoto, Dictum Publishing, Randburg, 1988, p 247


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