Thu, 4th Mar 2021 19:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 38
Lot 38 - Peter Clarke (South Africa 1929-2014)


Peter Clarke (South Africa 1929-2014)

acrylic with sand on board

Artwork date: 1970
Signature details: signed and dated March 1970 bottom right; inscribed with the title on a label on the reverse

Sold for R512,790
Estimated at R400,000 - R600,000

Condition Report

Overall condition is excellent. Colours are vibrant and stable. Minor paint flecks bottom left.

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.


acrylic with sand on board

Artwork date: 1970
Signature details: signed and dated March 1970 bottom right; inscribed with the title on a label on the reverse


44.5 x 59 cm; Framed size: 65 x 79 x 3.5 cm


Peter Clarke holds a unique place in South African art both for his poignant insights into South African society and his vivid imagery. Printmaking classes at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1961 refined his graphic skills. And his attendance in 1962 at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam with funding from the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Paris, which was arranged through exiled South African writer Ezekiel Es’kia Mphahlele (with whom Clarke was acquainted through their work for Drum magazine), [1] provided additional artistic skills and confidence.By 1970, Clarke was an established painter and graphic artist, writer, poet, chronicler of his times and commentator on life. Nowhere is this multiplicity of skills and insights more poignant than in this painting, simply titled Dop. As any South African will know, ‘dop’ means ‘drink’: it is both a noun, describing an alcoholic beverage and it is also a verb – to drink. The word conjures images of gaiety, celebrations and shared pleasures. However, it also carries connotations of the dreaded ‘dop system’, a practice whereby workers, especially on farms, were paid in measures of alcohol.This is a rare subject in Clarke’s oeuvre, making it an exceptional work. Clarke was acutely attuned to the woes of ordinary people and particularly those against whom the apartheid system of racial division was cruellest. Images of suffering that confirm his great empathy for his fellow human beings include Die lang pad (1962) and Anxiety (1966).In this painting a youth is shown drinking from an unmarked bottle. Behind him stands an older figure—a man staring with disapproving looks or a manifestation of his conscience—as if to warn him against the pitfalls of alcohol consumption. Danger is echoed in the surrounding landscape with its thorny branches and red skies.

Emma Bedford


[1] Hobbs, P. and Rankin, E. (2011). Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke. Johannesburg: Standard Bank of South Africa, p.89.

[2] Ibid, pp. 92 and 98

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Auction: Modern & Contemporary Art, Thu, 4th Mar 2021

Aspire Art Auctions’ Cape Town sale proved that the market for African and international art continues to thrive despite the pandemic.

The top lot by value was Irma Stern’s Dahlias and fruit, one of the most outstanding paintings from her late period, which achieved an impressive R5,234,800. Marlene Dumas scored a sensational hit when her early painting, Score, sold for R3,414,000, and stellar results were also achieved for celebrated artists; William Kentridge, George Pemba, Gerard Sekoto and Peter Clarke, amongst others, with world records at auction set for contemporary artists Turiya Magadlela and Gerhard Marx.

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