The Hammer Worker, a moving work by the father of South African sculpture, Anton van Wouw, leads Bonhams next sale of South African art in London on Wednesday 22 March. It is estimated at ZAR1,340,000 -2,000,000 (£80,000-120,000).
One of the artist's most recognizable sculptures, The Hammer Worker, created in 1911, depicts an African miner sitting beneath an overhanging rock ledge, working away with hammer and chisel. His labours echo those of the sculptor himself. Van Wouw (1862-1945) is also represented in the sale by The Mealiepap Eater from 1907, estimated at ZAR415,000-580,000 (£25,000-35,000). The bronze depicts a Shangaan man from a tribe that lived in southern Mozambique and in the Northern Transvaal or Limpopo province of South Africa.
The work of Irma Stern (1894-1966) has long been popular with collectors and Bonhams March sale offers a painting from the final years of her career. Harvesters, estimated at ZAR1,120,000-1,600,000 (£70,000-100,000), is the product of Stern's fruitful trip to the Congo region in 1955, an area she had already visited twice during World War Two when her German-Jewish heritage made it impossible for her to travel in western Europe.
Anton van Wous's godson, Jacob Pierneef (1886-1957), known simply as Pierneef, is another in-demand artist, mainly for his luminous evocation of South Africa's Highveld. He is represented in the sale by a wide selection of characteristic paintings. Malutis, for example, is estimated at ZAR670,000-1,000,000 (£40,000-60,000) and Hectorspruit and Joels Drift, Basutoland (Golden Gate) at ZAR500,000-830,000 (£30,000-50,000) each. The latter painting depicts Brandwag Buttress, a great rock formation located in the Golden Gate Highlands, near the Lesotho border, now a national park.
Finally, The Bus Stop by Robert Hodgins (1920-2010), painted in 1999, and estimated at ZAR500,000-830,000 (£30,000-50,000) offers a work by an artist who has perhaps been overlooked in recent years.
Hodgins, who was born in Britain settled permanently in South Africa in 1953, and lived and worked there for the rest of his life. The mid 1950s were a crucial time for Hodgins's artistic development. He moved away from portraying idealised beauty to concentrate on the reality of human experience. The Bus Stop with its emphasis on the central figure slumped on the bench, knees splayed, perfectly exemplifies this shift in Hodgins' aesthetic.
Bonhams Head of South African Art, Giles Peppiatt, said, "The breadth of work in this sale demonstrates the strength in depth of South African art. The figurative pieces are especially impressive, with The Hammer Worker and The Bus Stop wonderfully, and movingly, portraying the human condition."