The ‘quiet chronicler’

The late Peter Clarke, also known as the ‘quiet chronicler’, created artwork that subtly critiqued South Africa’s social and political history. Clarke is considered to be one of the most accomplished and versatile visual artists to emerge from South Africa. Two of his exciting paintings, (The Widow and Ring-a-ring-of-Roses) will be showcased at the upcoming Stephan Welz & Co. Cape Town auction on 5 – 6 June 2018.


Image: Supplied



This is a mixed media artwork that was acquired directly from the artist. While based at the Atelier Nord in Norway, Clarke created this painting to reflect the warmth of South Africa’s people, despite the political turmoil and socioeconomic hardships faced by the artist’s own community at that time in history.


In it, he depicts the finding of a silver lining when circumstances are dire and when misery threatens. While in Norway, distance gave Clarke a different perspective of his home. He found that he missed the ‘spontaneous warmth that makes a population alive’; an example of which can be seen on the children’s faces in RING-A-RING-OF-ROSES. Norway epitomised an orderly life and an organised society, but Clarke missed his fellow South Africans.


This painting depicts a group of four children, holding hands and dancing in a circle. The sky and foreground are painted in various shades of rose-pink, with the foreground and background divided by a thick band of blue, representing a wall. An ominous shadow leaks out from below the playing children, who are surrounded by a halo of white.


Image: Supplied



Clarke painted his subjects retrospectively, from an enormous collection of sketchbook images. This oil painting shows a woman in mourning clothes, traversing barren ground neither away from nor towards the viewer.

Very likely to be a reference to Cape Town’s forced removals under the Group Areas Act of 1950, Kayleen Wrigley explains that, “this work comments on the artist’s experience of perpetual travel and homelessness. The widow is ever-adjacent; ever-itinerant; neither at home nor away.”

For information on the auction and how to bid, or to attend the viewing email or phone 021 794 6461.


Feature Image: Peter Clarke – Newspaper Seller, District Six – Strauss Art