7th Jun, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 30
Lot 30 - Maggie Laubser (South African 1886–1973)


Maggie Laubser (South African 1886–1973)
Still Life with Vase and Sunflowers

oil on canvas laid down on board

Artwork date: 1940
Signature details: signed bottom left; signed and dated on the reverse
Literature: Marais, D. (1994). 'Maggie Laubser: her paintings, drawings and graphics'. Johannesburg: Perskor Publishers, illustrated on p.296, catalogue number 1205.

Estimated at R350,000 - R500,000


oil on canvas laid down on board

Artwork date: 1940
Signature details: signed bottom left; signed and dated on the reverse
Literature: Marais, D. (1994). 'Maggie Laubser: her paintings, drawings and graphics'. Johannesburg: Perskor Publishers, illustrated on p.296, catalogue number 1205.


61.5 x 50.5 cm; framed size: 80.5 x 70.5 x 4.5 cm


Private collection, Pretoria.

Acquired from the artist and thence by descent.


On Maggie Laubser’s return from Germany in 1924 after a decade in Europe, she was hailed by many as an avant-garde painter, a South African expressionist and a brave modernist. More conservative critics panned her works as childish, crude and un-naturalistic. Both views were commenting, whether in a positive or negative way, on her bold pictorial style using broad slabs of pigment, dark outlines and simplification of detail; a visual language which was so different from that practiced by the earlier generation of Romantic-realist painters like Edward Roworth, Gwelo Goodman and Jan Volschenk.

Within her oeuvre there remains a tension and slight contradiction between this notion of breaking new ground on the one hand, but on the other remaining within the conservative genres of art which were deemed particularly suitable for a woman painter: landscape, portraiture and still lifes. Yet within this traditional genre of still life painting, Laubser’s style was individualistic and expressive.

The flowers in her still lifes are always large, bold and striking … no delicate small florets, no highly realistic minute detailing, no plethora of studio objects. So proteas, hibiscus, poinsettias, zinnias, arum lilies and in this work, sunflowers, stand in clunky vases on simple horizontal surfaces against plain backgrounds, depicted with a loose energized brushwork and reduced imitative detail.

Here four large blooms with 2 curvilinear organic leaves are represented with an immediacy and directness, close to the picture plane.The disjunction of the table level behind the vase on the left and the right, gives a further energy and tension to the work.

Iconographically, the sunflower had a particular significance for Laubser who associated the colour yellow with the sun, with light and on a symbolic level with a positive and optimistic attitude. This can be seen most directly in her naming her house in the Strand, Altyd Lig or Always Light. This work has an excellent provenance having been bought directly from the artist by a Pretoria collector c. 1941.

Elizabeth Delmont

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 7th Jun, 2023


Aspire Art will impress collectors with this focused, boutique-style auction in Johannesburg. A feature of the carefully compiled collection is a strong focus on contemporary African artists. Collectors of contemporary works from Africa will be spoilt for choice with works by Thierry Oussou (Benin), Richard Mudariki (Zimbabwe) and Banele Khoza (Swaziland). Local contemporary favourites include Nandipha  Mntambo, Cinga Samson and Gerhard Marx amongst others. Contemporary photographers are also well represented with works by Aida Muluneh (Ethiopia), Kudzanai Chiurai (Zimbabwe) and South African international superstar, Zanele Muholi, while important historical images are included with works of Winnie Mandela by Alf Kumalo and a portfolio of twelve works – chronicling the hardships of apartheid – from Ernest Cole’s seminal House of Bondage (1967).

A highlight of the sale is South African modernist Alexis Preller’s, Adam (1972) – a recently discovered, never before seen, work forming part of Preller’s series of Adamic-themed works from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Other significant modern pieces include a unique terrazzo sculpture by Edoardo Villa, still lifes by Maggie Laubser and works by Cecil Skotnes, Walter Battiss and J.H Pierneef. 

The sale concludes with a special section of  William Kentridge editioned prints led by the impressive Blue Head (1993 – 1998).



Viewing will be open from  Friday 2 to Wednesday 7 June 8:30 to 16:30 and Saturday 3 June from 10:00 to 14:00.

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