A History of The Iziko South African National Gallery: Reflections on Art and National Identity

Anna Tietze

UCT Press

This first book-length history of the South African National Gallery provides an understanding and appreciation of the art collections for scholars, connoisseurs and the uninitiated.

As a cultural and art historian with a senior lecturer post at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, author Anna Tietze has had a long-standing interest in public art-collecting and has curated exhibitions at the national gallery since the 1990s.

“The gallery functions as a site of vital dialogue and does so with regard to both its historical and its contemporary collection. It is important that it continues to do so in a way that is historically aware,” she writes.

The national gallery grew out of the initiative of the South African Fine Arts Association in 1870 and opened in 1930 in the building it occupies today on Government Avenue in Cape Town. It is a collection of much more than paintings, prompting Tietze to use the terms museum and gallery interchangeably.

The book’s chapters each detail the different directors who served as curators at the gallery. Each sought ways to present the collection to the public in a way that is engaging and educational in aesthetics and history.

The first directors, John Wheatley and Edward Roworth, were chairs of fine art at Michaelis and honorary directors of the gallery. In the early years, the gallery was an extension of the art school and dependent on generous gifts including the Lady Michaelis gifts, the Alfred de Pass collection and the Abe Bailey bequest. read more