Arthur Edward Cantrell

Arthur Cantrell

About the Artist

Born: 1917 - 1998 – Kalaw, Upper Burma

South African artist Arthur Cantrell was born in Kalaw, Upper Burma, in 1917. Schooling followed normal English expatriate lines, with Arthur mainly keen to be outdoors and developing his own talent for sculpture, abstract drawing and painting.  He was always fond of colour and its juxtaposition in abstraction – similar to a more “organic” Mandarin.  Yet Arthur conducted his work, whether it be painting or sculpture, with great simplicity - just as he lived his life.

It was his prowess as a metalworker and sculptor that kept Arthur in work and funds after he settled in South Africa in 1936.  During the war he fought in the North African campaign as a bomb navigator.  After the war he again traveled widely before settling back in South Africa and becoming a full time artist in 1952.

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Style & Format

Arthur Cantrell married artist Fayette Varney shortly after this.  In 1959 he published a portfolio of prints called “Johannesburg Sketch Book” in which were detailed drawings of the architecture and buildings that were prominent at the time.  These prints were hand coloured for effect and demonstrated Arthur’s talent for pen and ink draughtmanship and perspective.

Arthur’s work is a link to the early fifties and the general optimism (he was an eternal optimist) which pervaded those times.  Art from the St Ives School in England was bold in line and colour and cubist abstraction.  Arthur gave it an African identity.  Arthur’s South African art mostly comprised still lives, clusters of buildings, landscapes and boats. with few figurative works.


Arthur Cantrell held numerous exhibitions internationally, both group and solo, and has held over 20 exhibitions throughout South Africa.

Most of the major municipal galleries have South African artworks from Cantrell in addition to The National Gallery in Cape Town.

Public commissions include a crucifixion triptych in wood and metal for the Chapel Amador in Funchal, Madeira and palace gates for the Royal Palace in Lesotho.

Cantrell’s work can be found in the following collections:

South Africa:
Telkom, SA Breweries, Polysius Krupp, Anglo American, Volkskas Bank, Constantia Mining, South African Airways, Mmbatho Sun, Afrikaner Museum in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein Synagogue, John Sleisinger Private and public collection, United Bank Building in Main Street, Johannesburg and the Rand Merchant Bank. Fine Art Resources S.A.

New Caribbean Yacht Club, Jamaica, Leicester Education Department, England, British Arts Council, London, Westminster Bank, London, Julius Fleishman Foundation, New York, Gallery Arte Actualle Torromolinios, Spain.

Fine Art Portfolio is proud to have a fine collection of this South African artist’s paintings, which are dwindling fast due to a resurgence in appreciation of colour and cubist techniques.

You can purchase one of the artworks created by this renowned South African artist online now.