Oil painting by Renoir on display

Leigh Leyde, Strauss & Co researcher and cataloguer, with Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Fruits (Oranges et Citrons). The oil on canvas is 29.5cm by 32cm excluding the frame.

Capetonians have the rare opportunity to see an oil-on-canvas painting by pioneer French impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Fruits (Oranges et Citrons), painted in 1912 and owned by a South African art collector, is part of Transcending Boundaries, an auction of modern and contemporary international art being held by auction house Strauss & Co.

The late-career still life is estimated to fetch R2-3 million at the auction, on Wednesday October 25, which will feature 111 works from the Americas, Asia Pacific, British Isles, Europe and South Africa.

The auction includes high-value paintings by John Piper, Edward Seago, Joža Uprka and William Wyllie, a photograph by fluxist pioneer Nam June Paik and a small consignment of sculpture, including a Jeff Koons edition. Other major artists represented in Transcending Boundaries include Mr Brainwash, Lynn Chadwick, Marc Chagall, Tracey Emin, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Takashi Murakami and Andy Warhol.

Ian Hunter, Strauss & Co senior art specialist, says this sale showcases a diverse assortment of international art collected in South Africa over a 150-year period.

“Featuring artists from 20 countries, Transcending Boundaries offers an insight into the generational tastes of collectors in South Africa. The catalogue encompasses a wide cross-section of artistic expression, from the late Victorian period to contemporary street artists.”

The Renoir will go on sale immediately after a fine interior study of the London home of émigré South African artist Edward Wolfe by Enslin du Plessis, another expat who made an impact in London. Transcending Boundaries includes five works by Du Plessis, who began exhibiting with the London Group in 1925. Other South African artists featured in this auction, whose output was influenced by their European training and travels, are Albert Adams, Tinus de Jongh, Jack Heath, Jane Tully Heath and Terence McCaw.

The public can see the artworks at Strauss & Co’s premises at Brickfield Canvas, 35 Brickfield Road, Woodstock, from 10am to 5pm, daily, except Sunday, before the auction next Wednesday.

On Saturday October 21, Hunter and Strauss & Co cataloguer and researcher Leigh Leyde will host a free fun art workshop at 10am that the whole family can enjoy, followed by a walkabout of the exhibition at 11.30am.

According to Strauss & Co, a Johannesburg collector acquired Fruits (Oranges et Citrons) in the 1970s.

The Wildenstein Plattner Institute in Paris recently authenticated the painting at Strauss & Co’s request.

“What is exciting is that they are building a catalogue raisonné, which is the entire body of work by the artist, and so this work is now added to that catalogue raisonné forever and it’s documented and traced,” says Ms Leyde.

She says that according to the nine specialists at the institute, to the best of their knowledge, they’ve never located a Renoir on the African continent before.

“So it’s the first time that’s happened and it’s the first time we’ve brought one to market on the African continent as well so we’re very proud and we feel like it’s a privilege, and as a researcher, it’s been a privilege to really explore this kind of work because I am an African art historian. I did have a course on impressionism at university, but I never in my lifetime thought I would ever handle or experience a real-life Renoir,” says Ms Leyde.

She says Renoir painted Fruits (Oranges et Citrons) when he was 71. He had been afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis and was wheelchair bound. An operation to address his illness had left him partially paralysed, forcing him at times to paint with the paintbrush strapped to his hand.

“Regardless of that, he still found great joy in painting,” says Ms Leyde. “Some of his strongest works, and people say his best period came from his late career period.”

The fruit are most likely from his garden at his estate of Les Collettes in the south of France, and the painting has all the vital elements of an impressionist work, says Ms Leyde.

“It’s got the strong, short brush strokes, it’s got the lush forms, it’s got the essence of beauty, the capturing of light, you can feel the south of France in the light in the way it goes onto the canvas. It also has this ability to capture a fleeting moment.”

Ms Leyde says one of the reasons the impressionist movement came about was the invention of photography.

“With that came the ability to capture a moment with a click and there was an interrogation of what it is to capture a moment.”

The impressionists were focused on not just capturing a moment but capturing the essence of it, and this can be seen in the way Renoir painted Fruits (Oranges et Citrons).

“The closer you look the more you feel like you could almost smell citrus ooze out of the canvas. You could really get a sense of that moment in time, and that’s really what it was all about for Renoir,” says Ms Leyde.

Visit www.straussart.co.za for more information or call 021 683 6560.

Leigh Leyde, Strauss & Co researcher and cataloguer, shows the marks of authentication at the back of the Renoir painting. A label at the back is dated 1912 and inscribed with the title.
Mr Brainwash’s Follow Your Dreams will go under the hammer.
Marc Chagall’s Dedication (Mourlot 557) is one of five works by the Russian/French artist on display.
South African artist Enslin du Plessis’s French River Scene.