Or “the big five” a term the late Mrs Huberte Rupert used when she curated this display, features the works of five of her favourite artists – Jean Welz, Cecil Higgs, Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern and Anton van Wouw – most of whom she had close friendships with.
The exhibit boasts 27 Stern paintings and is an excellent representation of the development of her oeuvre. Works on show include: The Eternal Child (1916), an early painting of a war time girl in Berlin that held great importance to Stern and which she kept it as a talisman through most of her life; The Stone-Breaker (1920), a painting that was included in her first show in Cape Town; and several paintings from her famous Zanzibar Period.
Cecil Higgs and Maggie Laubser were both prominent female South African artists whose contributions are increasingly appreciated by both local and international art markets. Higgs was known for her unification of colour and form as well as her textured handling of the painted surface – Still Life with Statice (1963-67) with its painted surface that is both modelled and scraped is a wonderful example of this and Water Lilies (1969) is an excellent example of her later period.
Laubser, who painted in the German Expressionist style, was able to sensitively capture landscape and sitter alike. Her introspective approach is something that featured throughout her career and can be seen in both Woman (1920) and Portrait of a Girl (1930) as well as in one of her earlier works, the quiet pastoral scene, Cows (c 1913).
Jean Welz was a trained architect before switching over to painting and this influence is especially visible in his earlier still-life works. His figures, though voluptuous, are precisely articulated with emphasis on form and composition. This is often paired with a muted colour palette, as can be seen in Nude with Tapestry (1945). His almost mathematical preoccupation with line and composition is also evident in Still Life: Earthenware with Blackboard and Still Life with Avocado Pear and Pumpkin, both painted in 1945.
Van Wouw – though an accomplished draughtsperson and painter – is primarily known for his realist sculpture, a skill mastered through intense observation and an innate understanding of human form and gestures. Several of his most popular bronze casts are on show, including the Bushman Hunter (1902), Bad News (1907) and Sleeping Man (1907).