Women – true heroes of the SA art world

Posted on August 8th, 2018 |

Tracy Rose (1974 -), L'Annunciazione after Fra Angelico, 2004, light jet print on paper.

From the 19th century to the present, women artists, art historians, curators and critics have played a significant role in the development of the South African visual arts.

Works by women feature prominently in the current centenary exhibition at the Sanlam Art Gallery. Maggie Laubser (1886-1973) and Irma Stern (1894-1966) are two of the most celebrated painters in our country’s art history. While Stern holds the record for the highest price achieved by a South African artist at auction, it’s not just the price tag that counts.

Both these women achieved success at a time when men dominated the art profession and teaching institutions had only recently begun to accept women as students. Against the odds, both Stern and Laubser achieved recognition in their lifetime from their peers and the art market.

Following in the steps of these two remarkable painters are a number of contemporary women artists whose work can been seen in this exhibition. Helen Sebidi (1943-   ), who grew up in rural Limpopo, is a celebrated painter whose distinctive use of mythological imagery and characteristic use of paint has made her a significant name in South African art.

Gladys Mgudlandlu (1917-1979), who was raised in the rural Eastern Cape, learnt the art of traditional mural decoration from her grandmother. She only started to paint in earnest at the age of 40 while teaching in Gugulethu and Nyanga. Her child-like imagery reveals a sincere love for her environment and the conscious manipulation of perspective results in imagery that is both pleasing and aesthetically engaging.

Women have made an important contribution to the development of the fine arts in all media in South Africa and there’s no doubt they will do so for many generations to come.

The Sanlam Art Gallery is located on the ground floor next to the CR Louw Auditorium and is open daily from Monday to Friday 09:00-16:30.

For more information contact the curator, Stefan Hundt, on 021 947 3359 or email Stefan.hundt@sanlam.co.za.

Click here for a gallery of the artworks.