Serving Msunduzi through the Visual Arts
FOTAG Focus Articles
For a number of years the Natal Witness ran articles by FOTAG members. These articles called the FOTAG Focus discussed artworks from the collection on display.
Edith picking flowers
1900, oil on canvas
by Stephen Coan
I have a friend called Edith. Though she spells her name with a 'y' instead of an 'i', and adds an 'e' at the end to match the one at the front. Edythe. I don't recall her picking flowers, though we once had a picnic in a field of green mealies under a blue sky. Edythe has a gift for leisurely activities like picnics.
Her gift (as well as her name) comes to mind while considering Bertha Everard's painting of her sister Edith picking flowers. Here is a snapshot from a more leisurely age - a time when afternoons could be spent picking flowers and such an activity serve as subject matter for a painter.
Edith was Bertha's older sister and in 1900, the year this picture was painted, they were both living in England. At the time both shared the surname they were born with - King - and Bertha signed and dated this painting with her maiden name. She returned to South Africa in 1902 and married Charles Everard in 1903. That the famous South African group of women artists, the Everards B of whom the two sisters were the founding mothers B should be named after a man (who was not an artist) seems a sad irony.
The two sisters had lived in England since movuing there with their parents in 1874. In 1900 Edith was 29 and and Bertha, who was 27, was visiting teacher of drawing and painting at Walthamstow hall, Sevenoaks, in the county of Kent, the likely setting for this poignant painting.
Poignant? There is a fragile femininty about Edith in her pink dress, a basket at her feet; dwarfed as she is by the white cliff and the dramatic light reflected across its face in bold, impressionistic slabs of paint. Light courtesy of a sun still high enough to strike dark, contrasting shadows and require Edith to wear a straw hat. It is a light associated more often with the south of France - or South Africa, where the two sisters would eventually settle.
Edith, of course, was an artist as well as subject matter. I've always liked her watercolour, Kloof trees, currently on the stairway at the Gallery. It was painted in the forties, somewhere in in what is now Mpumalanga, a long way in time and place from that day in kent. My friend Edythenow lives in namaqualand, an area famous for its flowers. Perhaps, in moments of leisure, she dons a straw hat, picks up a basket and ventures forth to pick some of them. I hope so.
The Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.
A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.