20th Apr, 2024 18:00

TAKING FLIGHT: Selected Works from the Phoenix Collection

  Lot 11
Lot 11 - Erik Laubscher (South Africa 1927-2013)


Erik Laubscher (South Africa 1927-2013)
Still life

oil on board

Artwork date: 1952
Signature details: signed and dated upper left

R700,000 - R900,000

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oil on board

Artwork date: 1952
Signature details: signed and dated upper left


45 x 50 cm; framed size: 52 x 57.5 x 5 cm


Bonhams, London, The South African Sale, 13 September 2017, lot 30.


In 1950, Erik Laubscher went to Paris to continue his art studies at the renowned Académie de Montmartre. Over the following two years, his work underwent a remarkable stylistic transformation, influenced by the French avant-garde and the scholarly exchanges with the renowned artist Fernand Léger in particular.

Painting stylised figures in social settings and interior still-lifes, the works Laubscher produced during this time are brilliant Post-Cubist citations, imbued with the aesthetic forms and elements of the time. This vivid Still Life, for example, includes references to Georges Braque’s flattened perspective of objects, Pablo Picasso’s cubism and fragmented abstraction, Léger’s monumental forms and Henri Matisse’s intensely Fauvist colour palette.

Laubscher's choice of subject matter is grounded in everyday, unassuming objects found in his immediate surroundings like his studio ­– here, three pears and cherries on a blue plate next to a slice of pumpkin and two apples. These familiar items would reappear in many other still-life compositions from the same time and later on. For the composition, he formally arranged them on a plain tabletop surface, juxtaposed against a black and white checkered tablecloth and a non-descript bright-red background. The setting and the objects are rendered in bold, flat outlines filled with bright contrasting warm and cold colours, accented by areas of texture. He also simplified perspective, allowing one to observe closely how the various shapes of colour connect.

Laubscher had a strong affinity for still-life painting throughout his entire artistic career. To him, it offered a unique way to explore the fundamental and formal aspects of art. His artistic journey was significantly shaped by the international Modern Abstract movements which compelled him to continually seek new perspectives and novel ways of artistic expression. As a result, the numerous still-life pieces he created over the years came to mirror his stylistic evolution and many accomplishments.

Still Life is a compelling piece, exuding a captivating charm through its refined simplicity and strong composition. Painted in 1952, this painting may be one of the very last works Laubscher produced in Paris. In June of that year, he returned to Cape Town and brought back many of the paintings he created there, to start a new life as an established artist.


  • Erik Laubscher’s ‘School of Paris’ paintings are highly sought after. Another still life from 1952, Still Life with Mandolin, Music Score and Fruit sold in 2009 for R 1 120 000, setting a record for the artist’s work at auction at the time.
  • The top two positions for Laubscher’s work at auction are also held by paintings from the Paris period. Still Life with Iron and Fruit (1950) sold for R 2 046 240 in 2017 and Women Arranging Flowers sold for a record R 2 046 240 in 2015.
  • A prolific artist with an illustrious career spanning 60 years, Laubscher was one of the first artists to represent South Africa at the São Paulo and Venice Biennale during the 1950s.


The artist is represented in numerous local collections, notably, the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Constitutional Court of South Africa, Johannesburg; Javett Art Centre, Pretoria; South African Constitutional Court, Johannesburg; Standard Bank Corporate Collection, Johannesburg and the Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch.

The overall condition is good.
Craquelure evident, particularly in the areas of pink paint along the bottom half of the work.
A small area of network cracks in the centre of the piece measuring approximately 5cm.

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.

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Auction: TAKING FLIGHT: Selected Works from the Phoenix Collection, 20th Apr, 2024



29 March – 20 April
Monday – Sunday: 9am – 5pm
Fridays: 9am – 7pm

Open for viewing on the Easter Weekend and Public Holidays.

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