Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary African Art


Stanley Pinker
signed (centre left)
oil on canvas
78 by 115cm., 30½ by 45¼in.
Painted circa 1970
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Acquired by the current owner's parents, Cape Town, 1970s
Thence by direct descent

Catalogue Note

Studying under the tutelage of Maurice van Essche, who was himself a pupil of Matisse, Stanley Pinker was undoubtedly influenced by the European modernist movement. Born in present-day Namibia in 1924, Pinker studied at the Continental Art School in Cape Town from 1947-1950 and at the Hammersmith School of Art in London from 1954-1956.  After leaving school, the artist would spend a large portion of his life living and producing in Europe before returning to South Africa in 1964.  

Upon his return to the continent, Pinker became enthralled with the land that he had left behind, initially investing his creative energy into the production of landscapes of rural South Africa and then broadening his scope to include commentary on socio-economic and political issues. Stanley Pinker became known for his ability to take his 20th-century European modernist background and fuse it with his home country of South Africa, where he drew most of his inspiration.

Exhibiting various cubist qualities, Pinker uses bold and flat areas of colour to depict a musical scene. The Orchestra is exemplary of Pinker’s interest in playing with notions of space, image planes and perspective, all the while including elements of reality within his works, in order to bring the viewer into a new realm where they can escape and observe reality in a new way. For Pinker, the act of observing a beautiful painting was of the utmost importance. Sue Williams, a fellow South African artist, says of works such as The Orchestra.

'His paint was sometimes light and lyrical, even sketchy, and sometimes drenched with rich colour. His subjects were often gently satirical. Odd objects were sometimes introduced. I remember seeing a painting of musicians, with real buttons stitched to the back of their blue tailcoats' (Suzy Bell, 'Pinker touched more than paint brush', Cape Times, South Africa, 2012). Looking closely at the tailcoat of the most prominent musician in the work, one can notice two buttons, almost camouflaged against the dark colours that make up that section of The Orchestra.

In 1969, Pinker became a faculty member of the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town. During his tenure, Pinker would shape many young artists, most notably Marlene Dumas, who would go on to become one of the most widely recognized contemporary artists of today. With many awards and accolades under his belt, the artist passed away in 2012 at 87 years old. Included in both public and private collections around the world, Stanley Pinker gained international recognition as one of South Africa’s most prominent artists.

Modern and Contemporary African Art