Hugo Naudé found his métier in painting the sun-drenched landscapes of Namaqualand and the mountainous landscapes of the south-western Cape. He studied in London, at the Slade School, and at the Kunstakademie in Munich, after which he travelled in Europe, gaining exposure to the French impressionists. On his return to South Africa, he initially set out to be a portrait painter, but was increasingly drawn to the countryside and the inhabitants of its small towns. He settled in the town where he was born, Worcester, where he built his house and studio (today the Hugo Naudé Art Centre). He frequently went on expeditions, taking a caravan, most notably to Namaqualand but occasionally as far north as Victoria Falls, to paint the landscape and to collect botanical specimens.
This relatively large work is an exceptional example of his mature style with its loose impasto brushstrokes conveying the vivid hues of springtime in Namaqualand. Unusually for Naudé, he has incorporated a vertical element in the form of a kokerboom in the composition which is in contrast to the strong horizontal elements of this flat landscape. Jan Juta recalls joining Naudé on an expedition into the countryside and quotes the artist’s approach to painting landscapes:
‘Never try to paint effects in nature, you know, sunsets, or even sunrise on the mountains, unless you want to produce a picture postcard … try for simple, straightforward renderings of light and shade – that’s the secret, shadow and sunlight – and search for the colour, always remembering you are composing natural forms, not just copying what you see’ (Background in sunshine, London, 1972).
This painting was given by Naudé to a close friend, Hannes Uys, in the 1930s and has remained in the possession of Uys’s descendants until recently.