History of Art in South Africa through time | Fine Art Portfolio

History of Art in South Africa

South Africa has been defined by a number of distinct periods - colonialism, identification of self as African, apartheid, with its associated sanctions and later democracy and the strong emergence of black artists; all of which have had a marked impact on the development of art in South Africa.

By its very nature, South Africa has a characteristic blend of art styles, genres and media which continue to grow and evolve with freedom. South African artists of all colours and creeds are collaborating and sharing both style and knowledge, creating a constant ebb and flow of uniquely South African art.

Reportage Art

The colonial period was dominated by the 'reportage art' of the likes of Thomas Baines, who simply recorded the landscape and its inhabitants for the colonial fathers in the style of realism. Today, South African artists including David Bucklow, Michael Tancrel and Sharon Tancrel continue to produce remarkably lifelike replicas of their chosen subjects in the photo-realistic style. There is a wide selection of landscapes, seascapes, portraits and wildlife art available at South African Galleries which fit comfortably within this genre.

African Identity

At the end of the nineteenth century there was a concerted move by South African artists to identify and create an art form typical to South Africa instead of merely emulating European art forms and genres. Although still considered realists, Hugo Naude and Jan Volschenk were some of the first South African Masters to embrace the subject instead of simply observing and recording it. Today, Mauro Chiarla, Errol Norbury, Gerrit Roon and Eugene Hurter, with their alluring land and seascapes, are amongst the contemporary equivalents.

European influences

This era of realism was closely followed by a dedicated period of growth with strong post-impressionist, expressionist and modernist influences from Europe. Arguably one of South Africa's greatest painters, JH Pierneef, revolutionised South African art with his wonderful geometric style, whilst Irma Stern and Maggie Loubscher caused quite a stir with their bold expressionism and subjective view of life.

Contemporary South African artists who have embraced an emotional, more subjective and modernist style in their work include Jen Adam, Willie Strydom and Anthony Gadd.

The effect of symbolism

Several South African artists, including Walter Batiss and, more recently, Robert Slingsby, have had a fascination with the symbolism and abstraction of the art of the indigenous people, including the earliest art form, rock art. Today, abstract art is popular with both the artist and the South African art collector with  Katherine WoodCandice Dawn B, Margot Hattingh and Billy Molokeng creating exceptional works.

Emergence of black artists

During the apartheid era black artists were intentionally denied a platform but this racial restrictiveness had a remarkable outcome. Black artists formed their own distinctive style using bold colours and mixed media, a style which is very visible and popular today, particularly in Township Art. Well known and collected artists celebrating this unique and vibrant genre of art include Frank Ross, Katharine Ambrose and Wallace Hulley.

To buy South African art, in any of its guises, it's recommended to either call in at our one of our South African art galleries personally or peruse our collection of artists and artworks via our website fineartportfolio.com to order and pay online via our secure payment gateway. We also offer worldwide packaging and transportation - so wherever you are located, you can still purchase your own unique and original South African artwork and have it delivered to you.

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