Anton Van Wouw
(South African, 1862-1945)
Signed and dated A van Wouw / S.A. Joh_burg / 1907
Inscribed FOUNDRY - G. MASSA - ROMA
Bronze with mid-brown patina
Height: 12¼" (31 cm)
Conceived 1907 and cast circa 1910
Anton van Wouw was born in a village near Utrecht in the Netherlands. He studied drawing and modelling at night classes from 1874 to 1889 in Rotterdam, soon discovering that his talent lay more toward modelling and sculpting. In 1890, after he had finished his studies, the young van Wouw left the Netherlands to join his father in South Africa, who had emigrated to the country seven years earlier.
Van Wouw's most defining commission was to produce a monument to President Paul Kruger to be placed in Pretoria. This commission gained him artistic recognition and led to continued success throughout his career. Van Wouw oversaw the entire casting process, spending three years (1896 - 1899) moving between foundries in Italy and the Netherlands. Although the sculptor preferred to use Italian and Netherlandish foundries, he later favoured Vignoli, a local foundry in Pretoria.
Anton van Wouw in Rome, ca. 1896 - 1899
Van Wouw's first solo exhibition was held in Pretoria in 1908. In 1909, examples of his work were included in an exhibition at London's Fine Art Society. The renown and acclaim that he was already enjoying was further bolstered by his masterpiece of c.1912, the Women's Monument, in Bloemfontein. In 1913, van Wouw was awarded the prestigious Order of Orange Nassau from the Dutch Government.
Anton van Wouw, The National Women's Monument (Afrikaans: Nasionale Vrouemonument), c.1912, Bronze, Bloemfontein.
Later public commissions include statues and busts of President General L. Botha in Durban in 1923 and President M. T. Steyn in the University of the Orange Free State in 1929. Van Wouw was already a member of the South African Society of Artists, and in 1932 he became a founding member of South Africa's National Association of Art.
In 1936, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate from the University of Pretoria, followed by the coveted Medal of Honour from the South African Academy of Arts and Science in 1937. He also designed various ornaments for public buildings, including the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek Coat of Arms for the Volksraad in Pretoria.
Van Wouw was also an accomplished painter and draftsman. In 1948, four years after his death, examples of his works were exhibited at the Tate Modern gallery in London.
Shangaan is one of a series of bronzes depicting native life, a subject close to van Wouw's heart. The work depicts a young man with his arms folded, it would seem, looking rather apprehensive. Others in the series include The Skapu Player, The Accused, Mealie porridge eater, Sleeping Native, Dagga-smoker, Bushman Hunter and Head of a Bushman. The sitter for the latter two latter was van Wouw's own servant, Korhaan. Such works are, as Dr. S. H. Pellissier writes, "the most precious gems of van Wouw's true art". His acute sense of realism and the subtle details incorporated into his bronzes give us a rare and striking glimpse of African life.
- Dr. S. H. Pellissier, from - Our Art Volume I, The journal Lantern in collaboration with the S.A. Broadcasting Corp, Pretoria 1961.
Anton van Wouw, Bushman Hunter, c.1902, Bronze
Ashby's Gallery, Cape Town - The Skapu Player
Durban Art Gallery, Durban - Hunting Bushman
National Gallery of Cape Town, Cape Town - Head of a Zulu
Michael Forrest, Art Bronzes, Schiffer Publications Ltd, Pennsylvania, 1988, Shangaan illustrated. p. 433
Bokhorst, Matthys and Heather Martienssen, Twentieth Century South African Art, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town and Pretoria, 1966, illustrated. p. 7
E. Duffey, Anton van Wouw 1862-1945 en die van Wouwhuis, University of Pretoria, 1981, illustrated. p. 45
Esme Berman, Art and Artists of South Africa, Cape Town 1983, illustrated p. 43
M.J. Cohen, Anton Van Wouw Sculptor of South African Life, Johannesburg, 1938. p. 24