Erik Laubscher, young talent to leading artist

Erik Laubscher Erik Laubscher is a South African artist who spent the best part of 60 years exploring, taking in and portraying South Africa’s landscapes. He particularly admired the Overberg and Swartland regions. These landscapes presented him with more than just a smell or a memory, these experiences represented some kind of spiritual significance. Over the last few decades Laubscher took keen interest in capturing the detail and depth of the sceneries he composed. He managed to combine lines, forms, colours and textures into a well-structured piece of art. Laubscher succeeded to invite one into his art, celebrating the intricate beauty of the land.
Walter Battiss, a member of the New Group, praised Laubscher’s ability to paint big canvases with satisfying assurance. He also praised the artist’s ability to bring something fresh to the stale ideas in the Cape. (as noted by After returning to his homeland, it took Laubscher some time to adjust; eventually shifting from Parisian-styled art to South African landscapes. It all started when Laubscher travelled to a small Eastern Cape coastal town, called Kenton-on-Sea. This town is situated along one of South Africa’s most pristine coastal areas. The most likely place for anyone to indulge in the beauty of nature.

Laubscher was a well-repsected artist among his peers, approaching landscapes with the eye of a photographer. Travelling around the Western Cape he was often reliant on luck, in order to be in a certain place at certain time to capture an image which would last only a few seconds. He regarded his art as a privilege, recreating landscapes or showcasing an array of moods through his experience.

Erik Laubscher Art If you pay careful attention to Erik Laubscher’s career you might notice a golden string of greatness running throughout. As a youngster he was recognised as a promising young experimental artists and by the 60’s he was one of the country’s leading abstract painters. He managed to create a unique identity when it would have been easier to fit the mould.

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Erik Laubscher’s Ladder to Success

Erik Laubscher Erik Laubscher is a South African artist with a unique story. In the words of the German writer and statesman Jonathan Goethe, one sees a picture of the life of an artist:  “There is no safer way of avoiding the world than through art, and there is no safer way of being linked with the world than through art.” Laubscher was a man with “bold views and colours, a born teacher and a ‘hands-on’ personality.” (Fiona Chisolm, IOL news )

Laubscher made the move to the then world superpower, Great Britain and spent short bursts of time at very reputable instiutions and with numerous well-known artists of the time. Some of his time included portrait drawing with Frank Slater and studies at the Anglo-French Art Centre with John Berger. He also shared lodging with fellow artist Breon O’Casey. In 1950 he chose Paris as his home – mainly to further his education. He immersed himself in cubism, a visual art style of the 20th century, under the guidance of Fernand Léger, one of Académie Montmartre’s most well-known teachers. This time in his life had obvious effects in the kind of artist Laubscher would become.

Erik Laubscher Art

His art speaks of a certain type of boldness and emotional engagement – something which became more evident as his career progressed. He was often marvelled by and experienced some kind of emotional attachment when coming into contact with landscapes. He was fond of using his art as a way of communicating those deep seated emotions. Erik Laubscher is credited with “blending” abstract art into the local art scene.

Upon his return to South Africa Laubscher almost immediately became part of the so-called New Group of painters, a place where his fingerprint on South African art would start. His involvement in South African art culminated in the sale of his oil painting Still Life with mandolin, music score and fruit for a record breaking R 1.2 million.



Erik Laubscher makes his mark

Here is a typical Walt Disney story of rejection being the springboard to later success. Erik Laubscher is one such example. As he attempted to enrol himself for further studies in art he was rejected, with the words “you can’t draw to save your life”. His next stop was the well-known Belgian artist, Maurice van Essche, new art school. As they say, “the rest is history.”

Best known as Erik, Frederik Bester Howard Laubscher was born on 3 February 1927 in Tulbagh, in the Cape. Attending Pinelands Junior School, Laubscher developed an interest in art during the 40s, almost the same time at which Maurice van Essche moved to Cape Town. After being rejected by the highly esteemed Michaelis School of Fine Art, he coincidentally met up with van Essche for private art lessons.

Erik Laubscher Absolut Art

It was on his mentor’s recommendation that he went to study in London and set foot on English soil just after the end of World War II. During this time he learnt from people like Frank Slater and Fernand Léger. The latter having a decisive influence on his work as an artist. Laubscher briefly returned home to enjoy some home-made cooking, but in 1950 he moved to Paris to further his studies at the Académie Montmartre.  This move changed his life in more ways than one. He fell in love with Claude Bouscharainm at the Academie Montmartre. The couple got married in Cape Town a short while later in his home country.

He had now come a long way since being rejected by Michaelis and the years that lay ahead would set the stage for a very successful career of art.

Robert “Gwelo” Goodman’s Best Years

You get artists and then you get artists. This kind of comparison is often used to distinguish the ordinary from the sublime, peculiar or even extraordinary. While Goodman might not have had an eccentric personality like Alexis Preller, some of his works certainly set him apart from the ordinary.

Robert Gwelo Goodman

Robert Gwelo Goodman’s roses have been labelled by some observers as “unimaginative and academic”, while other sources conveniently avoid the topic. Flower studies might not have been his speciality, but painting breathtaking landscapes and street scenes were second nature to him.

Following on from his success in landscapes he continued in a similar fashion, now also with interior scenes. The renovation of his home exposed his own knack for architectural adaptation, something he continued with for a large part of his career. Goodman went on to design a house in Johannesburg and community centre in Tongaat, KZN. One of his standout projects being the conversion of an old brewery in Newlands into his home. He renamed it Cannon house, after its original naming of old Cannon Brewery.

These experiences gave him the necessary expertise he would need to collaborate with Dorothea Fairbridge in her book Historic Houses of South Africa. During this time he also mainly focussed his work on Cape Homesteads and old Dutch houses. Three of his works even made the cut to be exhibited at England’s Royal Academy.

His art career continued for much of his life, even up to the lasRobert Gwelo Goodman t months before his death. Goodman was commissioned to do 10 paintings for the South Africa House in London. His final exhibition was held at the Argus Gallery in Cape Town. Many pundits describing this as his only exhibition that failed financially. Robert Gwelo Goodman died at his Cape Town home in 1939, as a result of a stroke.

After his death his works were sold off at his home in Cape Town, affording many collectors and galleries the opportunity to acquire some of his works.



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Goodman Art from Europe to India to Africa

Ever wondered what Taplow, Gwelo and the Boer War have in common? As is often the case with history, and even more so the history of art, one finds some connection between things that seem far apart. Enter the story, Robert Gwelo Goodman.

As a maturing artist, Goodman spent time painting all over the world; Europe, India and South Africa were all part of his itinerary. As the 20th century kicked-off, he exhibited some of his Boer War artwork in both England and South Africa. According to his account he was struggling to make a name for himself and started adding ‘Gwelo’ to his name. The then-Rhodesian, now called Gweru, was founded in 1895, the same year that Goodman started his own career.

The First World War gave Robert Gwelo Goodman good reason to return to South Africa. While getting used to the novelty of his new home, he became a member of the South African Society of Artists and the Johannesburg Sketch Club. Bringing with him considerable experience, he felt strongly about South African artists finding their own style and expression.

Robert Gwelo Goodman

As he started settling in the South African art scene, his fingerprints were being left for all to see. He is often remembered as the master of sunshine, but this only developed during is latter years, as noted by Newton Thompson. His portfolio is mostly filled with landscapes, but Goodman also has a few interior scenes, architectural painting and even designed two building; a truly diverse collection.

Robert Gwelo Goodman spent a large part of his adult life in Cape Town, quite a distance from his birthplace, Taplow, in England.  According to his biographer he was a man who believed in the values of hard work and individualism over the emerging modernist ideas; something which set him apart from the ‘crowd’.


The life of Robert Gwelo Goodman

Robert Goodman had that typical artist temperament; pouring everything he had into his art, until he had nothing left at the end of every day. A soul connection would develop as the day progressed, a trademark of every great artist, among which Goodman could be found.

He arrived in London with a lot of expectation, but ended up cleaning canvases as his sponsor could no longer support him. It was during this time that his work was accepted by the Royal Academy and another two by the Royal Society of British Artists’ Exhibition.

Goodman spent a considerable amount of time travelling the world, mostly to gather reference material for his art. During his travels he made the big trek to his actual homeland, South Africa. Even though he was not a war artist, his battlefront sketches was well received.

Robert Gwelo Goodman

It was during this specific trip that he would be reunited with his old friend J.S Morland. This trip would also be remembered for Robert adding Gwelo to his name. He was particularly concerned with his difficulty of making a name for himself in England and his good friend suggested he add Gwelo, mainly for its Southern African heritage.The Rhodesian town of Gwelo was founded in 1895 and later renamed to Gweru. This would be an important milestone in his life, he launched his art career in 1895, complete with his new initials, R.G.G

By the early 1900s he was seen as a respected landscape painter and spend 1903 and 1904 in India. In 1911 Goodman contract Rheumatic fever, forcing him to take some time out at the family home outside of Johannesburg.

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Robert Gwelo Goodman: The early years

An artist of European descent with a middle name is of Rhodesian descent; Robert Gwelo Goodman went on to become an esteemed artist of the 20th century. Described as an attractive, stimulating, and vital man Joyce Newton Thompson seemed comfortable in her admiration of this artist, but what impact did he have on art scene?

Robert Gwelo Goodman Art

Goodman was born in England and resettled in South Africa with his family in 1886. His father was a British Railways worker, explaining the logic behind the family’s African move. Robert worked as a railways clerk during his teenage years. A few years later he would enrol in tertiary education under J.S. Morland, who become a trusted advisor to Goodman throughout his career.

In 1895 Goodman travelled back to Europe for the first time since settling in South Africa. It was Morland who encouraged him to enrol in art studies in France. Academie Julian would be his new ‘home’. It was here that Goodman could engage with French traditionalist, William Bouguereau; who described his daily routine in the following way:  “Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come … if I cannot give myself to my dear painting I am miserable.”

This would be the beginning of a career filled with wide travels and vast adventures. His exhibitions not only crossed the equator but also jumped the Atlantic to the shores of North America. Robert Goodman was honoured with numerous awards, one of the highlights being the Gold Medal he received for a group of pastels at the San Franciso exhbition of 1915.

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Christo Coetzee: From Office Jobs to Gutai Art

By the late 1950’s Christo Coetzee had been collecting stamps in his passport for the most part of the decade. He completed his studies in fine arts at Wits University in 1951. The months that followed saw him relocate to London and enter into a short-lived marriage with Marjorie Long.

Many mixed years of exhibiting and office work followed, including his separation from his wife, who preferred normal life in the republic, in contrast to Christo’s life in Europe. The end of the 50’s saw Coetzee’s art being exhibited in numerous international art exhibitions in Japan, the United States and Italy. After a two-man exhibition with Lucio Fontana in Paris, he made a move to the eastern edge of the globe.

Christo Coetzee

Shortly after Coetzee’s arrival in Japan he was introduced to the avantgarde Gutai group. This group was birthed in response to the reactionary artistic ideas of the time. They were known for their large-scale multimedia environments and theatrical events. Their work emphasising the relationship between body and matter as they explored new ways of being fresh and original. Christo would eventually leave Japan for Europe.

Christo eventually left Paris to live in a small village in Spain. A trademark of this part of his life was his increased travels to his homeland, by 1975 he moved back to Cape Town on a more permanent basis. The mid-seventies saw the start of the protest years; he started an exhibition and returned after day one to cut up 23 of his paintings. The media labelled him as being angry but he would later explain this Gutai inspired conduct – labelling it as constructive rather than destructive.

Towards the end of his career he received numerous awards, including a Science and Arts Medal of Honour as well as various exhibitions in his name. Christo Coetzee died of colorectal cancer at the end of 2000. The Christo Coetzee House museum and gallery was opened in Tulbagh in August 2011.




Christo Coetzee making it big in Europe

Christo Coetzee’s story is typical of most South African artists; studied in South Africa, spend a number of years in Europe, return home to establish a career in art. This Wits alumni made the switch to London’s Slade School of Art in 1951. Unlike many of this peers, this European expedition would last more than a few years. In fact, it was only during the latter part of the 1960s when he would start spending more time in his homeland.

Coetzee travelled to London on a Wits scholarship to further his talent under the mentorship of professor William Coldstream. In 1952 he married Marjorie Long. The newly weds travelled to Spain for an extended honeymoon, which lasted for several months. The new mrs. Coetzee returned to South Africa to continue her teaching work at the university, Christo reluctantly tagged along. He forcibly engaged in the mundane tasks of office work, both at the South African Railways and then at Wits. His journey was lit up by some of his own art and later by some smaller exhibitions. It wasn’t long before Christo decided to find his way back to London. Marjorie never joined him again.

Christo Coetzee in Europe

Upon his arrival on British shores he started working as a sales assistant for a tobacco company in London and then moved to working in the framing business. It was during this time that he met Anthony Denney, who would an important part in his career and later on became a good friend.

After spending some time in London he received funds to go to Italy for four months, where he would make several important connections in the art world. After his four months in Italy had come to an end he went on to Paris where he followed up on some of his French connections, which he met through his good friend Anthony Denney. Upon arrival, he met Georges Matthieu and Michel Tapié would introduce to art informel, an art form evident in Coetzee’s latter work.

One might be forgiven for thinking that Coetzee either knew how to ride his luck or it must have been a case of right-place, right-time, as his next stop was Japan; again on a government bursrary. By this time Coetzee was a well-known artist on the European circuit as he was often asked to exhibit in various locations; quite remarkable for a boy from Turffontein.


Christo Coetzee: Great Artists Start Early

Christo Coetzee, a Johannesburg local and part of the Wits group, went beyond the boundaries of Europe by extending his footprint east, to the land of the rising sun. His love for art started at a young age as a student at Parktown Boys High School, arguably even inheriting a talent for drawing from his father, who worked in the building industry during his career.

Christo Coetzee As a young boy Christo had a vivid imagination, often enjoying the late rains, as they provided him with a natural studio from which to craft an array of mud-sculptures. He continued on this course as a youngster; even building a miniature theatre and making chessmen out of washers and screws he found around the yard. Christo became a real artist at the age of 13, after being commissioned by Finie Basson to do his first painting. The medium sized oil painting of pink and white roses earned him £5. (Binge-Coetzee in Ballot, 1999).

Coetzee grew in stature as his paintings were well received across the globe. It was during time spent in London that one of his works fell in the hands of photographer and stylist, Anthony Denney, who immediately bought it from Coetzee for £12. Denny subsequently invited Coetzee for dinner where he found his art posing above Antoni Clave’s piece. The two become great friends after this, Coetzee even lodging with Denney and paying the rent in paintings.

One of Coetzee’s works, Crespian (1957) was included in an international exhibition alongside artists like Conrad Marca-Relli, Maurice Wyckaert and Alexander Calder. In 1959 his work was exhibited at Galerie Stadler alongside Lucio Fontana.

Christo Coetzee Japan would be his next destination. He quickly found a likeness in the Gutai group and soon met founder Jiro Yoshihara. He spent the best part of the following year working with Yoshihara. Coetzee eventually had a studio in Tokyo, which led to an exhibition of Informel works at the Minami Gallery in Tokyo. The Gutai group eventually also inviting him to exhibit his works in Osaka in 1960.

After this Japanese exhibition he returned to Johannesburg in 1961 for his first exhibition in South Africa in almost 10 years. After his brief stint in the city of gold he spent many years living in France and Spain.

As one of his Japanese counterparts noted, Coetzee’s art gave him that “fresh feeling”.  The artist would continue in this vein for much of his career.

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