Harry Stratford Caldecott (South African, 1886-1929)
'In the Malay Quarter (Street Scene, Malay Quarter)' signed and dated 'S.C. / 24' (lower right) oil on canvas 51 x 55cm (20 1/16 x 21 5/8in).
PROVENANCE: The collection of Oliver Caldecott (1925-1989), the artist's son With Louis Schachat, Die Kunskamer, Cape Town A private collection
EXHIBITED: Cape Town, Ashby's Gallery, F. Zerffi and H.S. Caldecott, 1925, no.37 Port Elizabeth, Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts, 1927, no.80 Cape Town, Argus Gallery, Strat Caldecott, 1944, no.10 Cape Town, South African National Gallery, Harry Stratford Caldecott, Memorial Exhibition, 1956
LITERATURE: Die Huisgenoot, 6 February 1925, illustrated J. du P. Scholtz, Strat Caldecott, (Cape Town, 1970), illustrated no.14
Harry Stratford Caldecott arrived in Cape Town in May 1924 and lived close to the Malay Quarter. Many other artists had already recognised the area as a rich source of subject matter and Caldecott was no exception. He described his attraction to the neighbourhood in his article 'A painter in the Malay Quarter' in the South African Nation of 2nd August 1924:
"Here all seems good, all solicits, with silent urgency, projection into the unreality of the painted universe. Parallel and wavering straight, mouldings cap the bulging walls, giving sharp perspectives underlined in horizontal shadow."
Scholtz refers to the present lot in his monograph by the two titles under which it was exhibited: In the Malay Quarter and Street Scene, Malay Quarter; and he does confirm that they are one and the same work. The author also records a 1924 preparatory sketch (18 x 26cm) for the work entitled Street with trees, Malay Quarter as being in the collection of Oliver Caldecott, the artist's son. He further opines:
"In In the Malay Quarter (Street Scene, Malay Quarter) Caldecott again uses the pole as a compositional element in the foreground on the painting, but now he pushes the thin vertical more towards the middle... he makes the pole run through the exact centre of the painting. Street Scene, Malay Quarter is so solidly constructed, and sunlight and shadow on buildings and ground are such a strong binding element throughout the painting, that the single light vertical in the middle is not felt as a dividing line."
Caldecott had certainly found a subject and manner with which he was comfortable, but the critics were less kind in their reviews. The exception being Bernard Wiles in his articles for Die Burger and Die Huisgenoot, who refers to the present lot with high praise. Commercial success was also not forthcoming as many of the works remained unsold.
The 1944 Argus Gallery exhibition was enthusiastically reviewed in the Cape Argus and the present lot was specifically mentioned:
"The name of Strat Caldecott, the South African painter... now emerges upon public consciousness as one of the most considerable painters this country has produced. Take two of the finest pictures in the room, Old House, Long Street and Street scene, Malay Quarter. The approach, the sense of design (particularly in the latter), the sheer painting, are masterly... There is great beauty in everything here, an emotional and intellectual beauty."