Wash day signed 'G Sekoto' (lower right) gouache 72 x 56.5cm (28 3/8 x 22 1/4in).
PROVENANCE Purchased by Fritz Frank, Johannesburg, before 1947 Gifted to the current owner circa 1950
In 1938 Gerard Sekoto moved to the golden city of Johannesburg and settled into the culturally and ethnically diverse freehold Sophiatown. Sekoto, an astute observer, promptly came to terms with new urban and social phenomena of his unfamiliar surroundings. His introduction to Brother Rodger Castle, a well-known patron of black art at the time, set in motion a chain of events that firmly ensconced the artist in the Johannesburg art scene. Through the arrangements made by Brother Rodger, Sekoto was able to meet Alexis Preller (19111975) and Judith Gluckman (19151961), both prominent artists of the time, and together they supported his early developments as an artist. He also had the opportunity to meet Joan Ginsberg, the owner of the Gainsborough Galley which was situated in the Juta building, in the heart of Johannesburg city centre.
Since Sekoto had never experimented beyond poster colours and he required instruction in proper use of painterly tools and new materials, Judith Gluckman invited him to work in her studio where he learnt the various methods of paint handling and preparation of the palette: "At her studio she showed me all those methods without trying to exert any particular influence."
Away from the bourgeoisie environment of the Gainsborough Gallery, the hospitality of the suburban families and the intellectual conversations with other artists, life in Johannesburg and Sophiatown often left Sekoto with a "head full of confusion". The racial discrimination that characterised the life of the country soon began to extend into his artistic life. Sekoto's images portraying street scenes, places of intimacy in township homes, the social habits of women during washday, children playing in the street, provided a window through which the secluded white suburban society of Johannesburg could see and experience how other people lived.
From 1939 until his departure for Cape Town in 1942, Sekoto focused on scenes depicting urban black life. It was during his time in Sophiatown that the artist produced Washday. The technical proficiency demonstrated in this artwork, coupled with the saturation of golden yellow tones fused with gentle shades of blue, eloquently draws attention to and insight into, on what might on the face of it, appear to be a mundane activity.
BIBLIOGRAPHY N. Chabani Manganyi, Gerard Sekoto: I am an African, (Johannesburg, 2001), pp.36, 37