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57

Ben Enwonwu

Portrait of a young woman

Ben Enwonwu

Ben Enwonwu

Portrait of a young woman

Portrait of a young woman

Ben Enwonwu

Nigerian

1917-1994

Portrait of a young woman


signed and dated 1963 (lower right)

oil on canvas

41.5 by 34cm., 16¼ by 13¼in.

framed: 43.2 by 35.6cm., 17 by 14in.

There are scattered very light white traces in the lower left corner of the work. Some very minor surface loss to the corners of the work, only visible on very close inspection. The edges of the work exhibit light stretching marks. Overall, the work appears to be in very good condition. Inspection under UV light reveals some very light discolouration along the framing edge where the surface of the work was covered by the frame. No clear signs of restoration or repair. 


Condition 11 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

Private Collection, USA

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. By 1963, when the present lot was painted, Enwonwu was internationally recognised as Nigeria's premier artist. Exceptionally gifted, the artist was armed with an ability to orate, author unique essays and paintings to illustrate a belief that for Nigeria to regain a sense of its indigenous identity, unsettled by colonialism, it was imperative for the nation to push for cultural affirmation through the development of a new visual language.


Weary of the hasty acceptance of European abstraction amongst Nigerian artists, Enwonwu, in 1963 wrote the article Into the Abstract Jungle: A Criticism of the New Trend in Nigerian Art. His artistic practice had taken on another dimension in his own quest to represent a modern Nigeria, affirming his belief “that postcolonial African art must reflect the aspirations of independent African people”. The article was perceived as an attack on abstraction by his peers. However, Enwonwu’s presupposed opposition to abstraction was misunderstood, and the present lot perfectly exemplifies the artists mastery of employing European techniques to convey African subject matter in both abstract and figurative forms, which is what was implied in his writing. Enwonwu advocated a new modern Nigerian national culture, and it was in this context that Enwonwu painted this sensitive Portrait of a young woman.


The sitter represents the new Nigeria, with her modern hairstyle and dress, and her salient expression and focus outside of the frame captures the mood of the youth in Nigeria at the time; it is bold and self-assured, yet optimistic of the future. He deftly showcases his mastery of colour in the work, especially in his application of paint to his sitter’s clothing, which ultimately serves as a framing device to draw attention to her face and soft features.