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Leopard and Serpent

Foreshadowing Lewis's shift towards the human figure, this work breaks from the mould of realism that was the sculptor's oeuvre and enters a more abstract, mythical realm. It depicts a scene that the sculptor had never witnessed and indeed, one that is exceedingly rare in nature. Had it been the sculptor's intention to realistically depict an actual kill of a serpent by a leopard, the sculpture would have been more literal. The abstraction is particularly evident in the compositional elements of this piece, and there is also a discernible trace of the influence of
19th century sculptors Antoine-Louis Barye and Rembrandt Bugatti.

Known as the first animalier (“maker of animals”, an unflattering accolade at the time), Barye was a controversial figure who's Lion and Serpent created heated academic debate in Paris in 1832, primarily due to the elevated position it gave to the animal, as this was a treatment traditionally reserved for the human subject. Rembrandt Bugatti was also a sculptor of animals, but instead of depicting them realistically, he explored an abstract stylisation of form, striving to capture rhythms and harmony. The works of both of these sculptors struck a chord with Lewis, and Leopard and Serpent can be seen as the point at which his interest in the interface between human and animal began.

Sphinx-like in composition, its elevated display accentuates the heightened stature and dignity that Lewis now bestows on the wild animal. It can even be seen as an allegorical depiction of an internal battle, drawing on mythological associations. A further acknowledgment of the budding animal/human connection are the artist's plainly visible hand prints among the signature surface textures. In several ways, these can be seen as the nascent introduction of the human
element in Lewis's work.

P.J. Olivier Art Centre

In the 18th century this was an H-shaped Dutch homestead, and in1862 it became the Rhenish Institute, the first girls’ school in South Africa and one that provided education to the daughters of Rhenish missionaries here from Germany. During the 19th century it was expanded to its current double-storey format. The art centre was created in 1953, and named after the then Administrator of the Cape. It now serves all the schools in Stellenbosch.