Visual Treasures from South Africa
South Africa has a deep and rich history, with some of the oldest art objects in the world dating back 75,000 years ago. This tradition has carried forward all the way to modern times, with some of Africa’s most influential artists hailing from the southernmost country of the Dark Continent. While the list of South Africa’s best artists is long and diversified, selecting only a handful is a difficult task. Here are 5 of South Africa’s best-known visual artists…
If abstract painting is what you’re looking for, look no further than Walter Battiss. Battiss is generally considered to be South Africa’s foremost abstract painter. He befriended Pablo Picasso so it is easy to see where his influence came from, although Battiss already had a style of his own when the duo first met. Battiss traveled frequently and incorporated what he saw into his paintings, particularly his experiences traveling to islands.
William Kentridge is an artist known not only for drawings and prints, but also for his animated films. He originally wanted to become an actor but found little success. This opened the door to other possibilities which included becoming an artist. Kentridge is best known for using only charcoal in his drawings, but he has branched out to producing tapestries and even sculptures and murals. In 2016 he unveiled a 550m-long mural depicting figures from classic Roman mythology. Much of his work depicts the social injustices of apartheid.
Bonnie Ntshalintshali was only 32 when she passed away, but her legacy as a talented artist and ceramicist endures. As a young girl who was raised on a farm, Bonnie survived a bout with polio and because she was unable to perform heavy physical labor she turned her talents to sculpting. Her ceramic work has been featured in various expos and artistic organizations throughout the world. In 2003 Bonnie became the first black woman in South Africa to have a museum dedicated in her honor.
Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (or just simply Pierneef) was a talented landscape painter who often used the South African Highveld as his inspiration. His landscape paintings often featured incredibly life-like depictions of baobab trees. Pierneef had a unique style and his 1945 work Hardekoolbome – Bosveld best captures his ability to rein in massive landscapes into a singular perspective. Face with many difficulties in his life including health and financial, Pierneer persevered and is considered to be one of the best of the old South African masters.
Irma Stern was born to German-Jewish parents, and like Walter Battiss she traveled extensively during her lifetime. Her experiences abroad are reflected in her works which highlight a large array of subject matter. Close to 100 solo exhibitions were held during her lifetime not only in South Africa but also Europe. One of her favorite places to travel was Zanzibar and the Congo region. It is here that she became prolific. Her paintings have gone on to sell for millions of dollars.