69

Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary African Art

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London

Walter Battiss
1906 - 1982
UNTITLED

Provenance

Acquired in South Africa, mid-1960s
Thence by descent to the present owner

Catalogue Note

‘One of the great values of Battiss’s work has been his approach; an approach which has always and essentially been that of an artist and a draughtsman. The significance of materials, of technique, form, line and colour never escaped him’ (C. van Riet Lowe, Walter Battiss, The Artist of the Rocks Art in South Africa, Pretoria, 1948, p. 13-14).

Born in Somerset East, South Africa, in 1906, Walter Battiss has come to be recognized for his extensive travels, research and immense passion for life. Spending most of his youth in rural South Africa, Battiss developed a keen interest in archaeology and bushman rock art, a subject on which he later published two books. Known as one of South Africa’s most notable abstract painters, Battiss spent the majority of his career teaching at Pretoria Boys School (where he was headmaster 1953-58) and began his fine arts education later in life, obtaining his BA in Fine Arts from the University of South Africa in 1941.

Battiss very dedicated to the advancement of the arts in South Africa and was a founding member of the New Group, a collection of young South African artists who sought to educate South Africa on the artistic trends and movements taking hold of Europe during that time. Battiss was chosen to represent the New Group Transvaal artists and curated the second New Group exhibition in Pretoria in 1938.

That same year, the artist would begin his international travels, embarking on a series of journeys that would have a major influence on his later works. In 1972, after a visit to the Seychelles, the artist developed one of his most famous concepts, Fook Island. Developing an imaginary map, language and history for his utopian and imaginary Island, Battiss claims that the genesis of Fook Island was a result of his travels to various tropical islands. Fook Island was also a push back against the Conceptualist art movement that took hold of the art world in the 1960s and 70s. This present lot is another depiction of Battiss’s travels and appears to have been painted during one of his visits to Egypt or the Middle East, which date to the early 1960s.

Modern and Contemporary African Art

|
London