27th Mar, 2017 15:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 133
Lot 133 - Eleanor Esmonde-White (South Africa 1914-2007)


Eleanor Esmonde-White (South Africa 1914-2007)

oil on canvas

Signature details: signed
Literature: Raymond, L. (2015). Eleanor Esmonde-White. Cape Town: Main Street Publishing, colour illustration on p.122.

Sold for R341,040
Estimated at R300,000 - R500,000


oil on canvas

Signature details: signed
Literature: Raymond, L. (2015). Eleanor Esmonde-White. Cape Town: Main Street Publishing, colour illustration on p.122.


60 x 91.5 cm

Die Kunskamer, Cape Town.


A pioneering woman, Eleanor Esmonde-White lived an extraordinary life. Fighting the repressive expectations of women at the time, Esmonde-White began her studies in the Department of Fine Arts and Architecture at the Natal University College in 1932 (now Kwa-Zulu Natal University) but left in her first year, when she won the Herbert Baker scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London in 1933, and then a bursary to study at the British School in Rome in 1935.On her return to South Africa in 1938, she joined the celebrated New Group and was later asked to establish the now defunct Department of Design at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Her skills in graphic media, such as mural painting, etching, and wood cuts, led to a lifetime of prestigious commissions.Beyond living in England, Italy, and then Corfu for a time with her husband, Esmonde-White travelled extensively. Her love of travel was, in part, linked to her deep interest in people. She would ensconce herself in the everyday of her surroundings, sketching scenes which she would then flesh out with colour and warmth in her studio.Nudes is a prime example of Esmonde-White’s particular focus on women and her love of life on the beach – whether in Cape Town or Corfu. The full and rounded curves of the voluptuous women hint at abstraction at a time when many had moved away from figurative works. The painting glows with the rich colours of Esmonde-White’s signature limited palette, and exudes a feeling of ease and leisure. With no markers of time or place, the scene is timeless. Each of the three women seem preoccupied with their own thoughts, yet, due to the close composition, there is a sense of connection.As art critic and the former head of Michaelis, Neville Dubow (in Raymond 2015: 29), commented “what is so special about Eleanor Esmonde-White’s work is that there is an additional quality of warmth, of fullness, of monumentality which comes as much with a broad regard for people as it does with her training as a muralist”.

Josephine Higgins


Dubow, N. (1963). In Raymond, L. (2015). Eleanor Esmonde-White. Cape Town: Main Street Publishing.

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, 27th Mar, 2017

The Inaugural Cape Auction offed a diverse range of top-quality historic, modern and contemporary works. With a focus on critically engaged art and a curated approach, seasoned and new collectors competed to acquire significant works.

Aspire’s commitment to the growth of the art market saw international records broken in recognition of exiled South African artists. Louis Maqhubela’s Exiled King, a definitive, politically motivated work, sold for R341,040 - three times his previous record, and Albert Adams’ Untitled (Four Figures with Pitchforks), his first appearance at auction, sold for R136,416. Top prices were also achieved for established artists including J.H Pierneef, William Kentridge, and Edoardo Villa, and contemporary artwork fared exceptionally with record prices for David Brown, Steven Cohen, Mohau Modisakeng, Moshekwa Langa, and Mikhael Subotzky.


Friday 24 March 2017 | 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 25 March 2017 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 26 March 2017 | 10 am – 4 pm

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