Sun, 3rd Nov 2019 10:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 36
Lot 36 - Peter Clarke (South Africa 1929-2014)


Peter Clarke (South Africa 1929-2014)
Abandoned on the Dunes

oil on board

Artwork date: 1969
Signature details: signed and dated July 1969 bottom right
Literature: This work was given two titles by the Iziko South African National Gallery, The Dunes and Picnic on the Dunes.

Sold for R853,500
Estimated at R800,000 - R1,200,000

Condition Report

The condition is excellent. Recently restored.

Please note, we are not qualified conservators and these reports give our opinion as to the general condition of the works. We advise that bidders view the lots in person to satisfy themselves with the condition of prospective purchases.


oil on board

Artwork date: 1969
Signature details: signed and dated July 1969 bottom right
Literature: This work was given two titles by the Iziko South African National Gallery, The Dunes and Picnic on the Dunes.


28.5 x 36.5 cm


In the late 1960s, when Peter Clarke painted this iconic work, the spectre of political upheaval in the country loomed large. The Clarke family would soon be affected by the apartheid policy of forced removal, and many of the paintings Clarke made around this time reflected not only a kind of existential uncertainty, but a sense of abandonment and longing amid the turmoil of everyday life in the South Africa of the time.The painting has also been called The Dunes and Picnic on the Dunes, but the ostensible trappings of a picnic – the wicker basket with food and drink in it, and the vessel in the foreground – do little to dispel the beautifully realised sense of isolation and stillness captured in the work. The dominant figure in the picture, the mother, faces away from the viewer, her gaze drawn across the dunes and into the intense blues with which Clarke had depicted the sky. The figure of the sleeping child, on the left of the picture plane, is similarly ambivalent in her repose. She shelters in the lee of a wind-blasted tree, which is devoid of vegetation and rendered in the kind of angular, spiked, geometrically proto-cubist style which defined many of Clarke’s landscapes at this time.The whole scene, with its sense of a craggy, windswept air of desolation, has strong echoes of another work of the same period, Listening to Distant Thunder (1970). This work was used as the cover image and title inspiration for the authoritative monograph on the artist by Phillipa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin, Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke (2014), and its figures, mostly seen in profile, stare out across the dunes “with an austerity in their stylisation which….makes them seem intensely isolated… . With no signs of habitation or possessions, the figures seem utterly forsaken by society, a reading that no doubt prompted the alternative title the work acquired after it had left Clarke’s hands – Abandoned family.[1] This work, one of the finest Clarke oils to come to market, assumes a similar title and evokes a similar set of emotions – an elegy to a lost time and way of life.

James Sey


[1] Hobbs, P. & Rankin, E. (2014) Listening to Distant Thunder – The Art of Peter Clarke. Cape Town: Fernwood Press. p.119

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