'Merete and Stephen in a garden', Cape Town signed 'STANLEY PINKER' (lower left), bears inscription 'PINKER/MERETE & STEPHEN IN A GARDEN' (verso) oil on canvas 122 x 97cm (48 1/16 x 38 3/16in).
PROVENANCE: Gallery International, 57 Long Street, Cape Town, 1970 A private collection
In this unusually autobiographical scene, we catch a fleeting glimpse of Pinker's family life here his children play in the backyard of the artist's house in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town. His daughter Merete cuts a particularly whimsical figure, the orange frills of her dress caught up in a breeze and set against the angular lines and blue-green hues of Table Mountain, with the upper cable way station visible at the top.
In the foreground, we see Stephen and a smaller figure, probably the artist's youngest child, Matthew, who would have been three or four at the time of painting. Matthew fondly recalls playing badminton with his siblings on the small patch of grass in their garden, though remarks that his father as in the current lot seems to have replaced the shuttlecock with a tennis ball, a common motif in his work. He also suggests that the thick black form on the upper left of the picture plane may be the remnants of a charred apple tree with a particularly amusing origin: "We had an apple tree that caught fire and burnt down one Guy Fawkes night: my father was quite the firework pyromaniac! It could quite easily be the black pole in the background, as it stayed up for ages after it had burnt..."
The artist has commented about his working process that "Essentially the flat background does the footwork in my paintings; it is usually a base colour, or colours, and it sets the mood... In each case it is with the background that it all begins. It is my first concern, long before I start with the detail. The components of the imagery then assert themselves on the flat space in terms of their shape, line and colour". In the current lot, it is the green palette of the garden which forms the major colour field, and the spherical shapes of heads, racquets and balls which seem to assert themselves most strongly. The off-white sphere of a tennis ball hurtles between the children and over the criss-crossing net: it is positioned so high up on the picture plane that it threatens to fly over the boys' heads and into the viewer's space.
This rare, personal work combines all the features of Pinker at his best, simultaneously displaying his mastery of the "pictorial implications of early twentieth-century modernism in his African context": a concern for the "integrity of the picture plane, shallow pictorial space, open compositional modes and the notion of colour and texture as primary, independently expressive elements".
We are grateful to Matthew Pinker, the artist's son, for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Pinker and M. Stevenson, 'Interview with Stanley Pinker', in Stanley Pinker, (Cape Town, 2004), p.19 H. Proud, 'Reflection on the Art of Stanley Pinker', in Stanley Pinker, (Cape Town, 2004), p.8