The Wide Namibian Horizons Of Adolph Jentsch Come Into View On Strauss & Co’s May Auction

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German-born Namibian painter Adolph Jentsch is lauded for capturing the endless vistas and unique light and ambiance of his adopted country’s expansive landscapes, and three stand-out examples of his work are highlights of Strauss & Co’s upcoming May Virtual Live auction. The earliest of the three was painted in 1938, soon after the artist’s arrival in the country that was to be ‘home’ for the rest of his life.

Born in Dresden in 1888, Jentsch was schooled at the famed Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Max Pechstein, Kurt Schwitters and George Grosz. Unlike these contemporaries, however, who spearheaded major avant-garde movements, Jentsch dedicated himself to a more traditional and introspective style of landscape painting. His flag-bearers were the European Romantics and the Barbizon School, from JMW Turner and Caspar David Friedrich to Théodore Rousseau and Jean- Baptiste-Camille Corot; he was drawn by their devotion to nature and moved by the ephemeral and fresh qualities of their painting. A parallel influence was Chinese landscape painting, which resonated with his spiritual approach and inspired his calligraphic mark-making.

Shell-shocked by socio-political changes, professionally stifled, and in the wake of the Nazi’s infamous Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich (July to November 1937), Jentsch left Dresden for the then South West Africa, arriving late in February 1938. He was hosted initially by the Dietterle family – acquaintances from Dresden – on their farm called Kleepforte, some 100 km from Windhoek. It goes without saying that the artist was intoxicated by his new surroundings. This early sense of awe is evident in Evening, Sheepfold (estimate R 700 000 – 1 000 000), which was perhaps painted in the first weeks after his arrival. It is a dusky, calm and beautiful painting, showing a vast herd of Karakul sheep settling in their stone-walled pen. Their varying pelts of brown, silver and black gently shimmer in the fading light, while the grassland beyond, bleached and dry, stretches towards a range of low hills. The sky is unforgettable: Jentsch paints a shallow arc of graded blues and a luminous pink halo above the horizon.

Jentsch had produced enough major works by that first August to stage an exhibition in the Blue Room of the Grossherzog Hotel in Windhoek (it ran from 8 to 22 September 1938); with the lack of records one can only imagine that Evening, Sheepfold was one of the works on show there. The critic from the local Windhoek Advertiser was certainly impressed: ‘His art is true and deep and takes us away and above the petty routine of our materialism’.

The two other works on the sale, S. W. Afrika Landscape (estimate R 500 000 – 700 000) and Extensive Landscape (estimate R 200 000 – 300 000) are classic examples of Jentsch’s masterly skill at conveying a sense of quietude and calm with a startling economy of means – they are soul-enriching visual meditations that speak of a deep appreciation of nature and sensitivity to atmospheric variation.

Strauss & Co’s May Virtual Live sales begin in the company’s Johannesburg offices on Sunday 16 May at 11.00am when a single-owner private collection of fine wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and Champagne goes under the hammer.

Three sessions of modern, post-war and contemporary art follow on Monday 17 at 2.00pm and 7.00pm, and Tuesday 18 May at 7.00pm. All lots can be viewed on the Strauss & Co website and in the interactive digital catalogues. A wealth of videos on specific works and artists ranging from art market heavyweights William Kentridge and Irma Stern to the master of surrealist realism Keith Alexander can be viewed.

User-friendly information about registering for the auction, bidding and buying is also easily accessible on the company’s website.

For more information, contact Strauss & Co at jhb@straussart.co.za or go to www.straussart.co.za

Auction details: https://www.straussart.co.za/auctions/details/17-may-2021

Catalogue Session 1:Catalogue 1

Catalogue Session 2:Catalogue 2

Catalogue Session 3: Catalogue 3

3D Exhibition:

 

 

 

 

 

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