signed and dated 1970 (lower left)
oil on board
122 by 61cm., 48 by 24in.
Condition remarks largely lie within old framing lines, which are visible upon close inspection along the edges of the work. There are several minor punctures to the board, concentrated along the edges of the work. Light rusting to inherent nails present along the edges of the work. There are areas of minor loss to the board along the edges, particularly to the upper left and lower right corners. Two raised bumps in the board within the upper left and right hand quadrants of the work each approximately 0.5cm away from the framing edge. Minor accretions to the central figure's arm with further minor examples elsewhere. Minor detritus visible to the reverse of the board in places. This excepting, the work appears to be in very good condition.
Colours are true to the catalogue illustration.
The work is framed.
Inspection under UV Light reveals no signs of restoration or repair.
Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6323 if you have any questions about the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Private Collection, Nigeria
Ben Enwonwu was a pioneer of African modernism. Born in Onitsha in southern Nigeria, he studied fine arts at the Government College in 1934, before receiving a scholarship to study in the UK in 1944, where he attended Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Fine Arts. During this time, he engaged with the international art world, studying modern European art movements such as Symbolism and Fauvism. In 1946 he exhibited alongside prominent European modernists at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, where he briefly shared a studio with the South African artist Gerard Sekoto..
On his return to Nigeria in 1948, Enwonwu became Artist Adviser to the Federal Government. Among his many accolades, Enwonwu was awarded an MBE in 1955 by Queen Elizabeth II, and the following year he became the first African artist to receive a royal commission when she sat for a large bronze sculpture, now at the entrance to the Parliament Buildings in Lagos. By 1970, when the present lot was painted, Enwonwu was internationally recognised as Nigeria's premier artist.
Enwonwu first embarked on his Africa Dances series during his time in London, in reaction to Geoffrey Gorer’s 1935 book of the same name. The book critiques colonial rule and its impact on traditional life in Africa. In the Africa Dances series, Enwonwu illustrates his own views on the state of modern Nigerian culture at the time, using symbolic imagery in scenes of dance, and ritual performance from his Onitsha-Igbo heritage. Enwonwu revisited the theme throughout his career, exploring a range of dance forms, from masquerade and traditional ceremonies, to modern dance and performance. Other paintings in the series include Africa Dances/Agbogho Mmuo (1949) and Dancing Girls (1951-54).
By 1970 the series had taken on another dimension in Enwonwu’s quest to represent modern Nigeria. Nigeria gained independence from the United Kingdom on 1 October 1960, and with it the country was in search of a new post-colonial identity. Enwonwu advocated a new modern Nigerian national culture, and it was in this context that Enwonwu created Africa Dances (1970), illustrating his views on modernity and tradition. The woman in the foreground represents the new Nigeria, with her modern hairstyle and dress, she leans forward, performing a delicate dance. Permeated with rich tones of blue and green, the present lot displays Enwonwu’s maturity as a colourist, as well as a mastery of form and composition.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sylvester O. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, Rochester, 2008, p.155