Battiss... & Company

About

In a curated selection of Walter Battiss’s oeuvre, Goodman Gallery Johannesburg presents well-known as well as rarely and never before exhibited work by the late artist, widely considered one of South Africa’s first and most significant modernists. Titled Battiss & Company, the show will also include a section of the gallery dedicated to work by artists and people close to him both personally and professionally.

Rather than presenting a retrospective, Battiss & Company – curated by Neil Dundas – brings together a selection of early drawings and sketches as well as prints and highly significant oils, from the 1940s to the ’80s, that reveal the development of Battiss’s influential approach to art-making. A particular focus of the show is the artist’s distillation of a visual language based on San rock art that would ultimately impact both his contemporaries as well as the generations that followed. Battiss first became interested in archaeology and rock art as a young boy after moving to Koffiefontein in 1917. “As a boy,” Battiss said, “William Fowler [a family friend] led me by the hand to the ancient stones and only very much later did I realise how my creative subconscious had been affected by this revelation of early art.”

Never before exhibited sketches, drawings and watercolours display some of Battiss’s first manifestations of this “revelation”. Further works continue what academic Karin Skawran refers to as Battiss’s reiteration of rock art combined with his use of an “intuitively modernist approach”. This reiteration was ultimately concerned with various ways of capturing his surrounding environment. “In his sketches and watercolours he captured,” Skawran continues, “in a remarkably rapid, immediate and direct manner, the particular quality and the very essence of the African landscape. In his oils, subjective colour and surfaces rendered in thick impasto with incised linear forms, recall the graffito of rock engravings, adding to the dramatic impact of these works.” In Battiss & Company, two significant oil paintings (one curiously double sided), variably display the artist’s idiosyncratic use of impasto, colour and form, revealing the refinement of what became a new South African mode of expression.

Also on exhibition are iconic prints and other paraphernalia produced after Battiss’s travels to Greece and Seychelles in the 1960s and ’70s, which inspired his fictional opus – Fook Island. This well-considered myth included imaginary maps, people, plants, animals as well as an invented social history, a set of postage stamps and a newspaper called Fooks Nookspaaker, which will be on display.

Battiss’s context and influence can be seen in a section within the gallery displaying watercolours by his wife, Grace Anderson, as well as a rare self-portrait painting by John Muafangejo – internationally known for his black and white linocuts – also intriguingly double-sided. There are also works by Ephraim Ngatane, Cecil Skotnes, Rain Battiss, Norman Catherine and collaborations with renowned weaver Marguerite Stephens.


Walter Battiss was born in Somerset East, South Africa in 1906. In 1924 he became a clerk in the Magistrates Court in Rustenburg and five years later he began his formal art studies at the Wits Tech Art School, followed by a Teacher’s Diploma at the Johannesburg Training College. Battiss continued his studies while working as a magistrate’s clerk, and finally obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at UNISA at the age of 35. Battiss published nine books, wrote many articles and founded the periodical De Arte. He taught at Pretoria Boys’ High School for 30 years, and at the Pretoria Art Centre, where he was principal from 1953-58. He also taught at UNISA where he became Professor of Fine Art in 1964. After he retired in 1971 he was awarded the gold medal for painting by the Suid Afrikaanse Akademie, and was elected an honorary academician of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence for his services to art. Battiss exhibited at the Venice and São Paulo Biennales, and also founded the South African Council of Artists as a branch of the International Association of the Arts, Paris. He passed away in Port Shepstone, Natal in 1982.

  • Papeete

    Papeete, 1972

    Ink on paper

    41 x 59 cm

  • Still life with bird in window

    Still life with bird in window, c. 1952

    Colour pencil on paper

    27 x 37 cm

  • Untitled (mountain landscape)

    Untitled (mountain landscape), c. 1941-45

    Pen and ink on paper

    28 x 43 cm

  • Morning in the mountains

    Morning in the mountains, c. 1941-45

    Pen, pencil and ink on paper

    38 x 27.5 cm

  • Untitled (male nudes)

    Untitled (male nudes), c. 1941-45

    Watercolour on paper

    37.5 x 28 cm

  • Morning of youth

    Morning of youth, c. 1941-45

    Pencil and watercolour on paper

    38 x 27.5 cm

  • Untitled (figures with pot)

    Untitled (figures with pot), 1945

    Pen on paper

    27.5 x 38 cm

  • Untitled (figures with gourd)

    Untitled (figures with gourd), c. 1945

    Pen on paper

    28 x 43 cm

  • Untitled (figures, trees and rocks)

    Untitled (figures, trees and rocks), c. 1945

    Pen on paper

    27.5 x 38 cm

  • Untitled (lovers with rock art)

    Untitled (lovers with rock art), c. 1945

    Pen on paper

    28 x 43 cm

  • Up in the Baobab tree

    Up in the Baobab tree, 1945

    Pen on paper

    27.5 x 38 cm

  • Climb up to Logagatu, Nelspruit

    Climb up to Logagatu, Nelspruit, 1945

    Pen and ink on paper

    38 x 27.5 cm

  • Running Man

    Running Man, Undated

    Silkscreen

    65 x 45 cm

    Edition of 25

  • From Orgy Series

    From Orgy Series, 1982

    Lithograph

    64 x 85 cm

    Edition of 28

  • Mythical face

    Mythical face, c. 1971

    Silkscreen

    51 x 63.5 cm

    Edition of 1

  • Red Kouros and Matrix

    Red Kouros and Matrix, c. 1970

    Silkscreen

    42 x 59.5 cm

    Edition of 5

  • Archaic runner

    Archaic runner, Undated

    Silkscreen

    34 x 49 cm

    Edition of 1

  • Child Playing with the Leg of a Broken Statue

    Child Playing with the Leg of a Broken Statue, Undated

    Silkscreen

    51 x 41 cm

    Edition of 3

  • Fooks Nookspaaker

    Fooks Nookspaaker, 1975

    Silkscreen on newspaper mounted in Perspex

    48 x 72 cm

  • Leisure Bay in summer

    Leisure Bay in summer, 1980

    Limited edition poster

    33 x 47 cm

    Edition of 1

  • Gaika's Kop, Seymour, E. Cape

    Gaika's Kop, Seymour, E. Cape, 1981

    Limited edition poster

    33 x 47 cm

    Edition of 1

  • Barkly West – Donkeys

    Barkly West – Donkeys, c. 1980

    Limited edition poster

    33 x 47 cm

    Edition of 1

  • Lime acres west of Kimberley

    Lime acres west of Kimberley, c. 1980

    Limited edition poster

    33 x 47 cm

    Edition of 1

  • River Stones

    River Stones, c. 1950

    Colour woodcut

    31 x 42 cm

  • Tabakas

    Tabakas, 1940

    Watercolour on paper

    37.5 x 28 cm

  • Youth with a cat

    Youth with a cat, c. 1941-45

    Pen and ink on paper

    33 x 28 cm

  • Untitled (seated figure)

    Untitled (seated figure), c. 1941-45

    27.5 x 43 cm

    Watercolour on paper

  • Untitled (two seated figures)

    Untitled (two seated figures), c. 1941-45

    Watercolour on paper

    27 x 41 cm

  • Young bull and tick birds

    Young bull and tick birds, 1941

    Coloured pencil and watercolour on paper

    31.5 x 40 cm

  • People with birds and flowers

    People with birds and flowers, 1980

    Pen on paper

    41 x 56 cm

  • Spirit Birds that grant desires

    Spirit Birds that grant desires , Undated

    Pencil and watercolour on paper

    20.5 x 29 cm (drawing) / 17.5 x 22 (letter)

  • Untitled

    Untitled , 1937

    Watercolour on paper

    37 x 28 cm

  • Untitled (Giotto's Hill)

    Untitled (Giotto's Hill), c. 1940

    Watercolour on paper

    Watercolour

  • Self-portrait and Arch Bishop (verso)

    Self-portrait and Arch Bishop (verso), 1969

    Paint on board

    43 x 33 cm

  • Boys with birds and Fish (verso)

    Boys with birds and Fish (verso), Undated

    Oil on canvas

    45.5 x 62 cm

  • The Jumpers Deep G. M. Coy – Johannesburg.

    The Jumpers Deep G. M. Coy – Johannesburg., Undated

    Silkscreen

    39 x 59 cm

    Edition of 30

  • Belfast Coal Mine – Traansvaal

    Belfast Coal Mine – Traansvaal, Undated

    Silkscreen

    49.5 x 58 cm

    Edition of 30

  • The Cinderella Deep G. M. Coy

    The Cinderella Deep G. M. Coy, Undated

    Silkscreen

    37.5 x 60 cm

    Edition of 30

  • Boys collecting wild fruits

    Boys collecting wild fruits, Undated

    Linocut

    19.9 x 25 cm

    Edition of 1

  • Fook stamps, 1AK, 2AK, 3AK, 4AK, 5AK, 20AK, 30AK and 40 AK

    Fook stamps, 1AK, 2AK, 3AK, 4AK, 5AK, 20AK, 30AK and 40 AK, 1986 (posthumously)

    Photo-lithograph

    42 x 54 cm

    Edition of 200

  • Fook Waste Bag

    Fook Waste Bag, Undated

    Silkscreen on paper bag

    30.5 x 17.5 cm

  • Fook Feast

    Fook Feast, 1981

    Poster, signed

    50 x 66 cm

    Edition of 100

  • Green Beach

    Green Beach, 1978/9

    Poster, signed

    51 x 63 cm

    Edition of 100

  • Poet-Philosopher

    Poet-Philosopher, 1977

    Etching

    33 x 25.5 cm

    Edition of 20

  • Fook stamps, (in Twiks)

    Fook stamps, (in Twiks), 1986

    Off-set lithograph

    35 x 43 cm

    Edition of 200

  • Music and dance

    Music and dance, 1978

    Charcoal and pastel on paper

    59.5 x 65.5 cm

  • Design for tapestry weaving

    Design for tapestry weaving, 1979

    Mixed media on paper

    43.5 x 32 cm

  • Watering can in the garden

    Watering can in the garden , Undated

    Lithograph

    21 x 30 cm

  • Take Tahiti

    Take Tahiti, c. 1970

    Oil and gouache on wood and cloth

    21 x 6.5 x 7.5 cm

  • Profile Headstone

    Profile Headstone, C. 1970

    Bronze

    6 x 4 x 2 cm

  • Longing for water (and getting it)

    Longing for water (and getting it), 2010

    Oil on canvas

    60 x 70 cm

  • Longing for water

    Longing for water, 2010

    Oil on canvas

    76 x 92 cm

  • Umzumbe, South Coast

    Umzumbe, South Coast, c. 2000

    Watercolour

    29 x 42 cm

  • Basotho Riders

    Basotho Riders, c. 1962

    Oil on board

    22 x 20 cm

  • Grande Comoro

    Grande Comoro, 1975

    Watercolour on paper

    36 x 50 cm

  • Matala Crete

    Matala Crete, 1974

    Watercolour on paper

    45 x 60 cm

  • Fook waste bag

    Fook waste bag, Undated

    Silkscreen on paper bag

    30.5 x 17.5 cm

  • Untitled

    Untitled, 1969

    Carved wood

    18 x 24 x 11 cm

  • Orgy 4

    Orgy 4, Undated

    Silkscreen

    44 x 63 cm

    Edition of 39

  • Untitled (purple & pink swimmers)

    Untitled (purple & pink swimmers), c. 1970s

    Oil on canvas

    54.5 x 62.3 cm

  • Untitled (two girls sitting above rock pool)

    Untitled (two girls sitting above rock pool), 1981

    Watercolour

    29.5 x 48 cm

  • Kwela Boys (Penny Whistlers)

    Kwela Boys (Penny Whistlers), 1967

    Oil on masonite

    56 x 71 cm

  • Mantis Dance

    Mantis Dance, c. 1960s

    Silkscreen

    30 x 40 cm

    Edition of 1

  • Fruits of Life

    Fruits of Life, c. 1979 (from painting) 1981 (weaving design)

    Mohair tapestry

    205 x 252 cm

    Edition of 5

  • 10 People in a Mopipi Tree

    10 People in a Mopipi Tree, 1981

    Mohair tapestry

    194 x 239 cm

    Edition of 5

  • Unpundulu Bird

    Unpundulu Bird, c. 1979

    Mohair tapestry

    204 x 243 cm

    Edition of 3

  • Swimmers and fish in pool

    Swimmers and fish in pool, 1949

    Oil on canvas

    72 x 98 cm

  • Invention of Fook alphabet

    Invention of Fook alphabet, Undated

    Oil on canvas

    50 x 40 cm

  • Grazing buck

    Grazing buck, 1950

    Oil on board

    25 x 30cm

  • Isandlwana & Rorke's Drift in the distance

    Isandlwana & Rorke's Drift in the distance, 1979

    Oil on canvas

    60 x 80 cm

  • I've had enough!

    I've had enough!, 1985

    Msimbiti wood

    56 x 10 x 11cm

  • Fook Feast

    Fook Feast, 1981

    Poster, unsigned

    50 x 66 cm

  • Blue nude

    Blue nude, 1969

    Oil on masonite

    59 x 45cm

  • Installation picture [Battiss... & Company]