Gerard Sekoto (South African, 1913-1993) Portrait of a man (Lentswana)
Lot 24*
Gerard Sekoto
(South African, 1913-1993)
Portrait of a man (Lentswana)
Sold for £ 380,750 (US$ 505,818) inc. premium

Lot Details
Gerard Sekoto (South African, 1913-1993)
Portrait of a man (Lentswana)
signed 'G SEKOTO' (lower left); inscribed 'Lentswana' (verso)
oil on canvas laid to board
45.5 x 40cm (17 15/16 x 15 3/4in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    A private collection, South Africa.

    Exhibited
    Johannesburg, Gainsborough Galleries, Contemporary Paintings by South African Artists, September 30 - October 13, 1947. Catalogue no. 1.


    Gerard Sekoto, one of the pioneers of South African modern art, was one of the first black artists to receive recognition on an international stage.

    Sekoto discovered his facility for drawing whilst he was training as a teacher. After he was awarded 2nd prize in an art competition in 1938, he decided to pursue his passion full time, moving to Sophiatown in Johannesburg.

    Sekoto's work from this period depict daily life in the township. They record the hardships of black people under the apartheid regime. His paintings are not overtly political; however, his sensitive portraits emphasize the humanity of his sitters, challenging the racist rhetoric of the National Party that likened black people to animals. His township scenes reveal the strong sense of community; neighbours chatting together over dinner, school girls gossiping on their way to class, a mechanic mending a friend's bicycle.

    For the artist, these years in the townships were the happiest of his life. He moved to Paris in 1947, frustrated by the lack of opportunities for black artists in Johannesburg. Although the move would be pivotal for his professional development, it took its toll on his emotional and psychological health. Denied the camaraderie of the township, he quickly became depressed. In 1949 he was hospitalised for several weeks at a psychiatric asylum on the outskirts of Paris.

    The artist gradually acclimatized to his new environs, falling in with the city's jazz scene. Although he never returned to South Africa, he continued to paint scenes of his life in Sophiatown and Eastwood until his death in 1993. These late works are highly nostalgic – very different in tone to the paintings that he made in situ in the early 1940s.

    Bibliography
    B. Lindop, Gerard Sekoto, (Johannesburg, 1988), pp.21-26.
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  1. Eliza Sawyer
    Specialist - South African Art
    Bonhams
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    Work +44 20 7468 5881
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