17th Jun, 2018 18:00

Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art

  Lot 26
Lot 26 - Cecil Skotnes (South Africa 1926-2009)


Cecil Skotnes (South Africa 1926-2009)
The Legend of the Judean War

carved, incised and painted wood panel

Artwork date: 1984
Signature details: signed and dated

Sold for R819,360
Estimated at R600,000 - R900,000


carved, incised and painted wood panel

Artwork date: 1984
Signature details: signed and dated


121 x 243 cm

Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg. Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg. The Premier Milling Collection, Johannesburg.


The life and artistic practice of Cecil Skotnes was deeply entrenched in Africa. His experience of teaching at the Polly Street school in the heart of Soweto was one that allowed him to see past the blinkered view of white life under apartheid, and exposed him to the day to day issues of township life. For his part, Skotnes brought to the Polly Street school a vision of artfrom Europe – one where art was a lived experience integrated into everyday life. The kind of figures and styles that became iconic in Skotnes’ works were born from an eye not focused on Europe but a vision that showed a deep understanding of African art forms; a visceral consciousness seen in the highly conceptualised portraits and depictions of people – their emotional states moulded into a new form. This panel, African figures, is signed with a very small, precise signature – seldom seen beyond the period where Skotnes and Egon Guenther were breaking the mould and challenging a Eurocentric South African art community with the formation of the Amadlozi Group. Amadlozi, meaning ‘spirit of our ancestors’, was selected as a name to signal the group’s interest in an African identity, exemplified by Skotnes’ iconic depictions of Shaka. The precision of Skotnes’ forms is remarkable in the 1960s and is reflected in the prints he made in collaboration with Guenther.The print block became liberated into its own form – an artwork in itself. The delicate fine lines that are almost unimaginably difficult in this technique show a mastery that is synonymous with their collaborative works during this period. African figures was in all likelihood made in the mid-1960s and demonstrates the style, execution and subtle, muted earthy palette of many of the works produced under Guenther’s influence. It is strikingly similar in palette and execution to another work known as African figures, from 1965, which has to date fetched the highest price for a work by Skotnes at auction. In the many hundreds of works in his oeuvre it is rare to find a work with this degree of finesse. It may be compared to the important later work, The Legend of the Judean War (1984), in this work Skotnes adopted a more definitively carved, tougher form – albeit with a more vibrant colour palette. Here one sees an almost brutalist consciousness which is very different from the early work.

Mary-Jane Darroll

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Auction: Historic, Modern & Contemporary Art, 17th Jun, 2018

In a slow and unresponsive market, amid tight economic conditions generally in South Africa, Aspire Art Auctions made impressive statements and set several world records.

Two rare works by Irma Stern achieved sparkling results. The top lot by value: Still life with magnolias, apples and bowl (1949), fetched R6 828 000, the highest price achieved for a work by Stern for over a year. Another significant still life, Still life with chrysanthemums in the artist’s handmade ceramic jug, from 1950, sold for R3 414 000.

A significant, world record was achieved for Peter Clarke – R1 479 400 for Lazy Day, an acrylic and gouache on paper from 1975, and records were also set for contemporary artists, Zander Blom and Paul Stopforth.


Thursday 14 June 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm
Friday 15 June 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 16 June 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 17 June 2018 | 10 am – 5 pm

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