'Earliest work' by top South African artist Marlene Dumas sells in London

The earliest known work by an artist acknowledged as one of today's leading international female painters, Marlene Dumas, will be auctioned by Bonhams on March 23 in its sale of South African Art.

Dumas - born in South Africa in 1953, whose pictures today sell for millions - painted this charming picture for her student friend, Alida Louw, for Alida's 16th birthday in 1971. At the time they were both pupils at Bloemhof, an exclusive High School for Girls in the beautiful village of Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands, South Africa.

The work would be of no great significance were it not for the fact that the then budding schoolgirl artist now has an international reputation. Today, Dumas's picture is estimated to sell for £7,000 to £10,000.

The birthday painting was created four decades before Dumas's international reputation regularly assured her work six figure sums at auction. But its personal interest, motivated by friendship and the message of good luck it comes with, all add to its value and interest.

Marlene Dumas's painting for her friend Alida Louw, from 1971

Just recently the University of Stellenbosch presented Dumas with an honorary doctorate to acknowledge her huge international success and the pride the University took in claiming her as one of its own. This is despite the fact that Dumas has lived in the Netherlands for many years.

The birthday picture is now being sold after being nurtured by the owner for four decades.

"When it was painted it seemed like a light-hearted work of moments, but 40 years later the student artist, Marlene Dumas, is a major figure in the art world, and I am still greatly flattered that she took the trouble to capture this image for me," said Alida.

"I would like to see this picture find a loving place between other Marlene Dumas' in the home of a passionate collector rather than remaining in obscurity." 

Elsewhere, Dumas's works are held in the public collections of various museums, including the Museum Schiedam, Schiedam, The Netherlands; Tate Modern, London, England; as well as numerous institutions in the USA.


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