Born 1941 in Cape Town, South African artist André Wilhelm Groenewald has been painting ethereal scenes for over six decades.
His first solo painting exhibition at the age of 17 was held at the prestigious ‘Hollywood Furnishers’ on Long Street in 1959. With the success of this sell-out show, Groenewald managed to raise enough funds to attend the Michaelis School of Fine Arts.
He studied with and under the likes of Lippy Lipshitz, Carl Buchner and Maurice van Essche. Groenewald was the acting principal of the Parow Art Centre for over a decade and a docent at the P.J. Olivier Art School in Stellenbosch.
With a focused subject matter of imaginary tranquil scenes, there is an ever-present palette of phthalo and prussian greens, cobalt, turquoise and viridian that dominates his work.
In 2021, Art consultant Jeanne Hugo van der Merwe stumbled upon a handful of outstanding paintings in a sought-after private collection she was evaluating. She presumed that the paintings were mostly created between 1960 and 1990 but was baffled by the practically unknown, masterfully painted works that were, simply signed, ‘GROENEWALD’.
Bemused by its fauvist character yet tranquil & cool colour palette, the more she saw, the more she wanted to see. Determined to learn about these mysterious South African paintings she set out to discover more about the artist and was undeniably delighted when her quest finally led her to him – still alive and still painting passionately and living mere blocks away from her own home in Welgemoed, Cape Town.
When they met, it was as if two kindred spirits collided. What she found was a true artist, an unsung masterful painter with an illuminated collection of paintings made over many decades of semi-isolation.
What followed was more than a year of monthly visits and the building of an extraordinary friendship between Jeanne and André. They would chat for hours about life and art and history and its people. She indulged in his poetic use of colour and his affinity for imagined landscapes, informed only by the musings of his own mind.
Even though Groenewald had some strong friendships with like-minded artists such as Kevin Atkinson, Groenewald’s easily triggered temper and strong opinions kept him somewhat isolated from the fine art fraternities of the 20th Century. “Good for us!” she thought because now we have a coherent body of work that has been kept well preserved for such a long time.
Walking into his humble home was like “opening a little cardboard box filled to the brim with only the finest tones of topaz and emerald gemstones.” She learned of his impressive artistic achievements, including multiple exhibitions at the South African Association of Arts, inclusion in several esteemed SA collections and close relationships with some of South Africa’s most acclaimed 20th-century artists.
Groenewald ultimately agreed that his work had to be shared with the world once again. Hugo took the project to heart and started documenting the wealth of oil paintings, acrylics, watercolours and pastel sketches bundled up in his home collection. She spent many hours categorizing styles, themes, and eras of his work to present the public with a chronological portrayal of André Groenewald’s prolific oeuvre.
“Earthed by their tranquil scenes, the artist’s paintings are highly executed in their technicality, and each exudes a unique serenity. I believe Groenewald has added a unique flair to the history of South African painters’ understanding of Modernism in Europe.”
Over forty artworks have been meticulously selected to form part of a superb collection, the embodiment of André Groenewald’s solo exhibition gratifyingly presented to the public by Jeanne Hugo vd Merwe. It is a celebration of brush strokes and bold form, vibrant colours – and a chance for André Groenewald to share his life’s work.
André Groenewald’s solo exhibition will be available to view from 01 December 2022, at Hugo’s home gallery, 25 Hofmeyr, Welgemoed, Cape Town. To request a catalogue or book a viewing slot, visit www.hugomodern.art