13th Sep, 2023 18:00

20th Century & Contemporary Art

  Lot 49
Lot 49 - Walter Battiss (South Africa 1906-1982)


Walter Battiss (South Africa 1906-1982)
In the Winelands

oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1977
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right; E. Schweicherdt Fine Art Dealers sticker adhered to the reverse

Sold for R1,372,500
Estimated at R700,000 - R1,000,000


oil on canvas

Artwork date: 1977
Signature details: signed and dated bottom right; E. Schweicherdt Fine Art Dealers sticker adhered to the reverse


122 x 183 cm; framed size: 129 x 190 x 3.5 cm


Private Collection, Cape Town.

Stephan Welz and Company, Johannesburg, 26 March 1987, lot 109.

Commissioned by KWV Wine Corporation, Paarl.


This quaint, vividly coloured painting radiates an immediate sense of exuberance and vitality. Commissioned by the KWV Wine Corporation in Paarl, Walter Battiss created this work in 1977. Aged 71 at the time and still prolific, having conceptualised the Fook Island project just two years prior, Battiss continued to show a mastery and exploration of creativity in his work that remained potent and impactful.

Following a lengthy visit to the Pacific Islands, the Atlantic Coast of America as well as Australia in 1976, Battiss became increasingly interested in aspects of Pop Art, Realism and Naturalism, retiring his palette knife in favour of the brush as his preferred tool for his oil paintings and vibrant watercolours produced, throughout this period.

LEFT | Walter Battiss, Arizona Landscape, Nederland Colorado, 1977. Collection: Pretoria Art Museum.

RIGHT | Walter Battiss, Swimming Pool, Calvinia, 1977. Private Collection.

Stylistically evoking the simplified and bold compositions of British painter David Hockney’s iconic ‘pool paintings’ of the 1960s and early 1970s – which Battiss had come to admire – this exceptional large-scale painting depicts three young people at leisure, reading and picnicking in a richly detailed idyllic Cape Winelands setting. A light serving of fruit and wine contributes to the relaxed demeanours of the group as they enjoy the open air, the sun and the moment in untroubled bliss. This could be seen as Battiss’ painted hymn to Joie de Vivre.

David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972. Courtesy: Appolo

Unlike typical depictions of the Cape Winelands, Battiss’ smooth rendering is unsentimentally stylised in high-keyed hues, imbued with light. There is a sensuous, almost seductive feel to the work. The electric blue of the sky and water convey the depth and expansiveness of the location – the vineyards, mountains in the background and the pool in the foreground. Sunny yellows radiate warmth and joy. Amidst this burst of vividness, subtler tones intermingle. The Hockney-like rippled reflection in the water offers a soft harmonious balance, anchoring the scene.

Painting from his studio in Pretoria, Battiss worked from photographs to create the landscape, while the model for this work was his friend, the author and poet M.C. Botha, who stayed with the artist for a short period. Botha explained how Battiss created cut-out drawings of him and how he would arrange and rearrange these drawings on the painting itself. In one drawing, Battiss changed his gender to female, modified his hairstyle and clothed him in a pink summer dress. This ‘playful’ artistic approach resembled the process of dressing and redressing paper cut-out dolls. Botha further tells that the sandals the seated figure is wearing were his, as well as the pipe and tobacco that are placed in front of the reclining figure.

The idealised outdoor fête champêtre has been a favourite subject for painters throughout history. Thematically, In the Winelands references canonical paintings, especially of the Impressionists like the infamous Luncheon on the Grass (1863) by Édouard Manet; Claude Monet’s own Luncheon on the Grass (1865-6) and Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904) by Henri Matisse. These works collectively speak not only of pastoral joy, leisure and relaxation, transience and ephemeral moments but also indirectly of hedonistic pleasure and sly bourgeois indulgence.

LEFT | Édouard Manet, The Luncheon on the Grass, 1863 Collection: Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

CENTRE | Claude Monet, Luncheon on the Grass, 1865/6 Collection: Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

RIGHT | Henri Matisse, Luxe,Calme et Volupté, 1904. Collection: Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Stunningly picturesque, the painting is distinctively unique and rare in Walter Battiss’ oeuvre. This is one of only a few late figurative works and Cape scenes the artist ever painted. It is also the last large format oil painting Battiss created before his passing in 1982.

Marelize van Zyl


The artist is represented in numerous local and international collections, notably, the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.; Johannesburg Art Gallery.; Javett Art Centre, Pretoria.; Durban Art Gallery.; William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley.; Hester Rupert Museum, Graaff-Reinet.; UNISA, Pretoria.; Cincinnati Gallery USA, Cincinnati.; Wits Art Museum, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.; Anne Bryant Gallery, East London.; The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth.; Sandton Municipal Collection, Johannesburg.

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