South Africa Table Mountain

Enjoy the South African art scene,
an abundant manifestation of art in South Africa

The South African art arena has been flourishing right from the country’s early beginnings. Those of you who love and enjoy art, will greatly enjoy the prolific manifestation of art in South Africa.

The country is home to a bustling art scene, producing virtually every type of art imaginable, from ancient rock art to the newest and most advanced artistic trends.


At the same time it is also the home ground of numerous diverse and challenging contemporary South African artists creating new work all the time.

The variety of sources of inspiration is as wide as the diversity of the multicultural South African society. The end result is such a rich artistic happening that it will leave you wanting for more.



The San people have left us an invaluable legacy of marvellous rock paintings and carvings - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
The San people have left us an invaluable legacy of marvellous rock paintings and carvings
South Africa Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
copyright © South African tourism

Ancient art,...

South Africa is covered with a multitude of natural “galleries” in the form of rock surfaces, boulders and cave walls displaying a priceless and unique collection of Stone Age engravings and paintings. Some of the oldest ones date back as far as 10,000 years.

These artworks mainly show scenes of the ancient San and Khoi people and their association with nature, wildlife and their cultural events. These scenes include a large variety of wild life, hunters with spears, dancing people, people herding cattle and many more.

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Colonial times,...


1838 Painting of a Zulu attack on a Voortrekker camp, by Charles Bell 1813-1882 - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
1838 Painting of a Zulu attack on the "Voortrekker" camp at Bloukrans, by Charles Bell 1813-1882
South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists

During the early days of the Cape Colony the artists that were there, were mostly travellers passing by or visitors. In their paintings they tended to portray this "new world" in great detail, visual descriptions as accurate as they could make it.

A well known painter and socialite from that period was Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825), an accomplished travel writer and artist. Her paintings give a unique view of life in the Cape Colony at the end of the 18th century.


Baobab Tree, a watercolour painted by Thomas Baines 1820-1875, dated 29 December 1861 - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
Baobab Tree, a watercolour painted by Thomas Baines (1820-1875), dated 29 December 1861
South Africa Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists

Other 18the century artists known for the detail and accuracy in their paintings were:

Thomas Bowler (1812-1869) known for his watercolour paintings and pencil sketches.

Thomas Baines (1820-1875) a British explorer who travelled the country, recording its flora, fauna, people and landscapes.

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The 19th Century,...


Bushveld landscape painting by Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957) - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
Bushveld landscape painting by Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957)
South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
Photograph by Gunther Stephan

The 19th century art scene in South Africa was to a large extend influenced by European immigrant artists. Trained and formed in Europe, they depicted life in South Africa for its own sake and from a different artistic perspective, rather than visual descriptions of what they observed.

Some well known 19th century artists in this category are:

Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957). Born in Pretoria, he is generally regarded as one of the best artists South Africa has ever known. He studied art under Frans Oerder en became internationally renowned for his monumental landscape paintings of the African bushveld.


Another great Bushveld landscape painting by Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957) - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
Another great Bushveld landscape painting by Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957)
South Africa Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists

Anton van Wouw (1862-1945), famous sculptor and regarded as the patriarch of South African sculpture. He was a great admirer of the "Afrikaner Boer" nation and this strongly reflected in his work. Among his most significant sculptures is the statue of a lady he made for the Women?s Monument at Bloemfontein.

Frans David Oerder (1867-1944). He joined the "Boer" forces during the 2nd Anglo-Boer war in South Africa and in that period he produced quite a number of pencil sketches of battle scenes. His forte however was the painting of portraits.

Tinus de Jongh (1885-1942) was one of South Africa's most popular painters. He started his career in Holland as a decorator and taught himself to become a painter. His etches of buildings and in particular his realistic oil paintings of the Cape landscape became very popular.

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The 20th Century,...


The Cowshed at Glenaholm, dated 1940, painting by Rosa Hope (1902-1972) - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
The "Cowshed at Glenaholm", dated 1940, painting by Rosa Hope (1902-1972)
South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists

The 20th century saw the formation of "De Nuwe Groep" (The New Group) in 1937. A group of young artists who turned their back on the, in their eyes, old-fashioned art forms of the established masters.

They choose for the Post-Impressionistic approach, using real-life subject matter, distinctive brush strokes, thick application of paint and vivid colours. In addition they used unnatural or arbitrary colours and emphasized and distorted geometric forms for expressive effect.


Still Life with African pot by Irma Stern (1894-1966) - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
Still Life with African pot by Irma Stern (1894-1966)
South Africa Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists

Some of the members of this group were:

Irma Stern (1894-1966). She studied in Germany and became associated with the German Expressionist painters of this period. Her paintings, often depicting black people in a rural setting, are characterized by rich colours and bold lines.

Gregoire Boonzaaier (1909-2005). He studied art in London and was co-founder and chairman of "De Nuwe Groep", (The New Group). His work includes paintings of District Six and the Bo Kaap, both former inner-city residential areas in Cape Town.


Lino print by Gregoire Boonzaaier (1909-2005) - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
Lino print by Gregoire Boonzaaier (1909-2005)
South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists

Lippy Lipshitz (1903-1980). Born in the republic of Lithuania, he was trained as a woodcutter in Cape Town, and later as a sculptor in Paris. He became a professor in the Fine Arts department at the University of Cape Town.

Cecil Higgs (1898-1986). Born in Thaba Nchu in the Orange Free State, she moved to England in 1920, were she studied in London at the Byam Shaw School of Art, the Goldsmith’s College and the Royal Academy of Arts. Eventually she returned to South Africa to settle in Sea Point in Cape Town where, influenced by the sea in her paintings, she became known as a marine painter.

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The Apartheid era,...

Well known South African artist Sandy Esau in his art studio in Darling, Western Cape province - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists><br>
<font color=Well known South African artist Sandy Esau in his art studio in Darling, Western Cape province
South Africa Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
copyright © South African tourism

The Apartheid Era did not do much good for the black artists in South Africa, the traumas of apartheid were never far away. The subject matter of their art was often strongly influenced by a political reactionary attitude and a means of expressing their protest and dissent against the Apartheid system. Because of that much of their work was banned by the authorities and much of it disappeared out of the country.

Some well known artists from the Apartheid era are:

Ezrom Legae (1938-1999). Born in Vrededorp, he studied art at the Polly street art centre in 1959 and then at the Jubilee Art Centre from 1960 to 1964. Noted for his strong visual commentaries on the sorrow and humiliation of apartheid, he excelled as painter and sculptor of heads, figures and animals.


Icons de Dakar
Icons de Dakar "Africa", dated 1996, Ink on paper by Ezrom Legae (1938-1999)
South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists

Bongiwe (Bongi) Dhlomo. Born in 1956 in Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal, she studied printmaking at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift, where she received a Fine Arts Diploma. An opponent of Apartheid, her woodcuts and linocuts portray a wide range of issues ranging from politics to mere descriptions of everyday life of working South African women.

Noria Mabasa was born in 1938 in Xigalo, in the Limpopo province, South Africa and became a famous woodcarver and sculptor. Her work is mostly about woman with babies, traditional ceremonies and events from daily life, conveying het feelings about social rejection, censure, and disapproval.

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Art galleries,...

Evidence of the exciting and inspiring art activity in South Africa, starting right from the beginning of its history, can be seen in the many different art galleries and museums throughout the country. You will discover at least one or more reputable art galleries in every town or city. Include them in your itinerary and discover the abundant creative talent that South Africa is offering.

The South African National Gallery in Cape Town, Western Cape province - South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
The South African National Gallery in Cape Town, Western Cape province
South African Art, Art Galleries in South Africa, South African Artists
Photograph by Danie van der Merwe

Some of the major exhibitions of art in South Africa are to be found in: The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum in Port Elizabeth, Eastern province, the South African National Gallery in Cape Town, the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Johannesburg, Gauteng province and the Durban Art Gallery in KwaZulu-Natal. They all display collections of indigenous, historical and contemporary work.

Other institutions that play an essential role in preserving art collections of national importance, are the universities. These include a collection of contemporary Indian art at the University of Durban-Westville, the Edoardo Villa Museum at the University of Pretoria, the University of South Africa (Unisa) Gallery also in Pretoria and the Gertrude Posel Gallery of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, among others.

And last but not least there are the corporate collections, which include those of MTN cellular phone network, the Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (Absa) and the Standard Bank, to name but a few.







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