Rare artworks by Oltmann and Methven uncovered

2018-03-13 13:26
Kobie Venter, Pinkie Mitshali and Reena Bhoodram are pictured with the two rare pencil drawings by Walter Oltmann.

Kobie Venter, Pinkie Mitshali and Reena Bhoodram are pictured with the two rare pencil drawings by Walter Oltmann. (Estelle Sinkins )

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A pair of rare Walter Oltmann pencil drawings were uncovered during Strauss & Co’s valuation session at the Tatham Art Gallery on Monday.

Dating to the early 1980s, the works, titled Garden Chairs 1 and Garden Chairs 2, were brought to the gallery by a private collector.

Fine art specialist Dr Alastair Meredith said it was “rare to come across an early formative pencil work by Oltmann”.

“When you look at the intricacy and delicacy of the pencil work and the fastidious accuracy in these drawings, you get a sense of his later work, the wire works for which he is best known.”

Meredith said it was hard to know exactly what the two drawings would sell for on auction, but a recent work by Oltmann, sold three weeks ago, made just under R200 000.

A graduate of the School of Fine Art on the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Oltmann’s former lecturers include Maritzburg artist Jinny Heath, while one of his contemporaries is Fee Halsted, founder of Ardmore Ceramic Art.

Oltmann has said that the rigorous training students received in drawing at the university was the foundation upon which he built his art.

Another key find was a landscape showing the Umgeni River at Howick, painted by Cathcart William Methven.

Born in 1849, he was engineer-in-chief at Greenock on the Clyde, before moving to South Africa to take on the role of harbour engineer in Durban in 1888.

Besides being an architect and an able musician, he produced many paintings of KZN scenery, helped found the Durban Art Gallery in 1892, and drew up specifications for the building of the pipe organs in the Durban and Pietermaritzburg city halls.

Methven died in Pietermaritzburg on August 30, 1925.

“Methven is a hugely important but under-appreciated artist,” said Meredith. “This work has been part of a private collection for many years. The painting is very dark at the moment, but it will clean up nicely.”

Strauss & Co also discovered works by Willem Hermanus Coetzer, Thinus de Jongh, Cecil Higgs and Leigh Voight. These works, together with a collection of bronze sculptures and an exquisite butterfly brooch made from gold, rubies and sapphires, will be heading to Johannesburg for Strauss & Co’s auction in June this year.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  art

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