14th Sep, 2022 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 49
Lot 49 - Cecil Skotnes (South Africa 1926-2009)


Cecil Skotnes (South Africa 1926-2009)
Homestead, triptych

carved, incised and painted wood panels

Artwork date: 1960
Signature details: right panel signed and dated

Estimated at R700,000 - R900,000

Condition Report

The overall condition is good.

Professional restoration report upon request.

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.


carved, incised and painted wood panels

Artwork date: 1960
Signature details: right panel signed and dated

(3 )

168 x 83 cm each; 168 x 249 cm combined


Private collection, Johannesburg.


Homestead is an exceptional large-scale example of Cecil Skotnes’ unique, strongly graphic carved and incised wood panels – a medium for which he is today well-known and widely-celebrated.

Early in his career, Skotnes focused on painting but in the mid-1950s he started experimenting with wood cuts. The artist had seen a series of woodcuts by a German artist, Rudolph Scharpf, who used to exhibit at Egon Guenther’s gallery in Johannesburg. Skotnes was intrigued by Scharpf’s black and white woodcuts and, in an interview with art historian Neville Dubow, recalled that heswallowed up his technique almost wholesale”, doing “nothing but black and white woodcuts” from 1956-1959.[1]

The printing technique opened a wealth of possibilities for Skotnes and he developed into a notable graphic artist. But he soon realised the limitations of printmaking. Why not use the wood block itself as an artistic medium?Instead of cutting the block and then using it as a means to an end, Skotnes started to transform the blocks into artworks, colouring and cutting them and using them as a surface for paint and pigment. The new wood panel works were much larger than the woodcuts and the medium allowed for wonderful textural creations.

In Homestead, the incised depressions reveal the natural colour of the wood in stark contrast to the raised, black, stained and flat areas. Although he would later include browns and ochres, and then earthen reds and sandy yellows, Skotnes, in his early wood panels, often only used the natural wood, areas of black, white and grey. In this way, the relatively monotone works still held strong ties to the black and white wood block prints of the late 1950s – from which the medium had developed.

In 1959, Skotnes entered his first wood panel Figure into the São Paulo Art Biennial

in Brazil where he represented South Africa. Homestead was produced only a year later and is a rare and early wood panel produced at a formative stage in the development of Skotnes’ much-loved signature style.

Sarah Sinisi

[1] Dubow, N. (1996). Landscapes of the Mind. In F, Harmsen (Ed.). Cecil Skotnes (pp. 111-127). Cape Town: Privately Published. p.113.


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, Norval Foundation, Cape Town.; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.; The South African Reserve Bank, Johannesburg.; Anglo American Corporation, New York and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Copenhagen.

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Auction: 20th Century & Contemporary Art, 14th Sep, 2022


Aspire Art will impress collectors with this focused, boutique-style auction. Including 81 carefully selected lots the sale boasts impressive examples by many of South Africa’s most celebrated artists. A fine selection of William Kentridge works, including two original drawings, Eduardo Villa sculptures, painting by Robert Hodgins and Walter Battiss and a wonderful early Penny Siopis drawing are on offer.

Also featured are two special sections – Black Modernism and Photography. Aspire has firmly cemented itself as a champion of both these collecting segments and collectors will be spoilt for choice with a rare drawing by Dumile Feni as well as works by other modernists including Gerard Sekoto, George Pemba and Lucas Sithole and photographs by David Goldblatt, Mohau Modisakeng and Simphiwe Ndzube amongst others.


The exhibition preview is open to the public.

Viewing is from Friday 9 to Wednesday 14 September.

Weekdays from 09h30 to 16h30, Saturdays from 09h30 to 14h00, and Sundays by appointment.

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