Frans David Oerder is another South African painter in a long line of great artists to come from the Southern tip of Africa. In Oerder’s case his contribution is visible in both his art and the learnings that he could pass on to other artists.
Frans was born in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam in 1867. His father, Johannes Carolus Oerder, was a municipal worker who also had seven other children. As is often the case, a career as an artist was not the career choice that Oerder senior would have made for his son. However he was willing to compromise and allowed Frans to train as a decorator.
In 1880 he enrolled at the Rotterdam academy of art where he eventually completed his training as an art decorator by 1885, one year prior to the actual end date of his course. His efforts did not go unnoticed and he became a very worthy recipient of the King William III gold medal and bursary. This accolade presented the new graduate with more opportunities. Things were going well for this new aspiring artist.
Frans Oerder embarked on travels to Italy followed by a move to Brussels to study at Ernest Blanc-Garin’s newly formed art academy. This move provided him one of his last opportunities at formal education before embarking on the balancing act of being a professional artist and putting food on the table.
His next step was moving to South Africa, literally the other side of the world. This would become his new home and while his experience of life as an artist had started in his homeland he would now have new challenges to face.
He was liked by both his peers and students. Remembered as a magnificent man. Stanley Pinker, a leading South African painter, left behind more than just his art. A telling contribution to art and the cultural sphere in general counts him with some of the greats, from Cezanne to Matisse.
‘The Wheel of Life’ painting dating back to 1974 is seen as one of his most noteworthy paintings, fetching R 2.4 million. He used the artistic elements to create a commentary about the political and social climate of the South Africa he lived in. He uses various symbols to depict the state of affairs in apartheid South Africa, something artists of the time seemed to gravitate towards for inspiration. He uses marionettes, a red devil on a bicycle and a red locust, Strelitzias and flags to capture the state of affairs in South Africa. This painting is one of Stanley Pinker’s most direct references to political folly, providing the public with much to ponder on. (source credit www.wikiart.org and www.straussart.co.za)
In Pinker’s rendition of ‘The Garden of Eden’ one sees the mastery of cubism at work. It is a scene of Adam and Eve, face to face, in the presence of a floral audience. One can be forgiven for getting caught up in the idyllic scene; before noticing the dramatic irony of the situation. The imminent theme of loss is clearly visible as is a contrasting ambience of dark and light, innocence and knowledge. (source credit: www.bonhams.com)
Stanley Pinker’s work speaks of a thorough understanding of European modernism while being rooted in a South African milieu. His return to South Africa after a decade long stay in Europe brought him face to face with the complexities of South African society, breaking away from place specific work to being more content focussed.
That was Stanley Faraday Pinker. A remarkable man known for being a great artist and teacher, accentuating the struggles of society with a reflective tone and touch of humour.
South African artists of the 50’s, 60, and 70’s had a tendency of heading for the famed European cities in search of artistic enlightenment. Stanley Pinker followed this trend, trading the African sun for a European chapter. His travels took him to the streets of London and France, but not before being educated at Cape Town’s own Continental School of Art.
The late 1940’s saw Pinker, who had moved from Namibia to the republic some 10 years earlier, enrol at the Continental School of Art under the guidance of Maurice van Essche. His next stop was the Hammersmith School of Art in London. He returned to South Africa for a stint at the Cape Town Art Centre during the 1960’s. His next stop was the Michaelis School of Fine Art, where he became a much loved teacher and mentor. Still remembered by an array of accomplished artists; Marlene Dumas being one of them.
His art is remembered for being a breath of fresh air, many admirers remembering his ability to incorporate some odd objects to his art. Some remembering the buttons he stitched to the back of the coats of musicians in one of his earlier paintings. Stanley Pinker’s art accumulated substantial value, Wheel of Life fetching R 2,4 million on an auction by Strauss & Co.
This artist not only had a following, he created a legacy. He held several exhibitions at SAAA, Western Cape (now AVA). He was awarded the Rembrandt Gold Medal at the Cape Town Triennial. His lifetime devotion to art also earned him the Molteno Medal. His work is housed in many of the major public galleries in South Africa as well as countless private collections, locally and abroad.
The Stanley Pinker legacy goes far beyond the canvas, this great teacher and mentor helped other along the way of artistry.
Creative genius and an affinity for being different are apt descriptors for Alexis Preller. This South African artist is remembered for his unique and counter cultural style. Similar to many artist of his time he spent a lot of time in Europe; travelling, exploring and learning the tricks of the trade.
The great South African artist, Pierneef, was partly responsible for Preller’s choice to study in Europe. A stroke of genius in many commentator’s books. It was in this time that he travelled large parts of Europe and even crossed the Mediterranean to set foot on North Africa. Visibly influenced by the works of Piero del la Francesca and the mystery of Egyptian pyramids, he came up with art works such as Hieratic Women (1956) during this time. Despite the European influence which may have been evident in his art, the African spirit had gripped him from a young age. This was after he went on a camping trip and safari to Swaziland and Congo. By his own admission, he was stirred by African customs, traditional rites, sculptures and fetishes of tribal Africa.
This combination of African heritage and European sophistication saw Alexis Preller’s own formulation of a primeval African art form, which resulted in the establishing of a compendium of iconographic imagery which would serve him well as his career progressed. The trajectory of his journey through the history of art became one of solitude. His worked seemed rather different and unfamiliar to the rest of society, but his brilliance was yet to be discovered.
Alexis Preller didn’t seem to care much about the status quo as he was focussed on expressing deep ideas through his art.
Alexis Preller was a Pretoria born artist whose work played a definitive role in the South African art scene during the mid 1900s. He is remembered for his brilliant imagination and artistic genius. Many remember him for being somewhat different; to say the least. As his career progressed, so did his popularity and he is now remembered as a massive kingpin on the South African art scene.
Preller’s style evolved into something rather unique, isolating him from the artistic movement of the 20th century, A style not common to traditional old school movement. Although he was always highly regarded in his home town of Pretoria, his following spread to the Cape in the 1960s as a result of an exhibition of his works in the Mother City.
His works are characterised by absolute precision, sound structural composition and a testament of a perfectly balanced palette. This is what makes Alexis Preller not only unique, but an artistic genius, who was way ahead of his time.
The wandering mind of Walter Battiss made him one of the unique characters of his time. He had an almost unusual interest in African art, ranging from Ndebele artwork to Bushman rock art. Some commentators attribute his eccentric style to the influence of his friendship with Picasso in the 1950s.
He was a founding member of The New Group, a collective of young South African artists who set out to explore fresh ideas in art and explore new frontiers. A large number of this group had been studying in Europe at the time and their arrival in their motherland left them disillusioned with the conservative culture surrounding South African art. This group enjoyed a tenure of about 10 – 12 years after which it was disbanded as a result of being institutionalised. It was in this period of time that he released his first book, ‘The Amazing Bushman’.
The Walter Battiss Company notes that it was 1955 when the started experimenting with calligraphic art and evidence of human and animal abstractions became evident. It was about this time when Ndebele art became a prominent feature of his artworks.
The early 60s saw his curiousity soar to new heights as his interest in Islamic culture took him on several trips to Central Africa and the Middle-East. One might surmise that this was the period of time that he wanted to explore the rest of the world. Towards the end of that decade he made numerous trips to the north; including Greece in 1968 and Seychelles in 1972. Walter Battiss traveled to many other parts of the world as well, including Hawaii, Zanzibar, Fiji and Madagascar.
Walter Battiss was an influencer and innovator. He had a special interest in man and his environment. His impact on many young artists and the South African art scene remains as valuable as the art he left behind.
Walter Battiss, one of South Africa’s foremost abstract painters, spent a large part of his career coupling art and education. Amongst other things he was the art master for Pretoria Boys High from 1936 till the late 1960s. He travelled, collaborated, wrote books, exhibited; doing everything an artist could do.
He was born in 1906 in Somerset East, Eastern Cape. In a few short years his family moved to Koffiefontein and then eventually settled in Fauresmith, where he matriculated in 1923. He started working as a clerk at the magistrates court just the following year. After gaining some work experience he enrolled in tertiary studies.
He completed a diploma at Witwatersrand Technical College followed by a teacher’s diploma at Johannesburg training college. Soon afterwards he went back to work at the magistrates court while also studying. He finally obtained a bachelors degree in fine art at UNISA; by this time he was already into his thirties. Unlike many other local artists, he did not study overseas at this time.
Battiss met up with Picasso and Gino Severini in the 1950s and was even invited to lecture on South African art during that same year. He took some time to travel through Europe in the 60s and visited the Seychelles in the early 70s. This saw the birth of his legendary and imaginative ‘Fook Island‘. His imagination and ideal of Fook Island led him to a much deeper place than just being a quirky artist. This was his weapon of choice against apartheid; he noted that Fook Island exists inside everyone.
It is clear that Walter Battiss was more than colour, imagination and abstract art. He was a deep thinker and used his art to speak to people.
Come back for more of Walter Battiss in the weeks that follow.