Fruits of the vine

2011-05-17 00:00

THIRTY works by acclaimed South African artist, Cecil Skotnes, will be on show at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg from May 20 to June 19.

This travelling exhibition was launched in Stellenbosh in April and included a viewing at the University of Cape Town’s Irma Stern Museum in May. After its stopover in Pietermaritzburg, it will be visiting Kimberely, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Paarl.

The works make up the travelling exhibition and form a core part of KWV’s extensive art collection. It was built up over the 93 years, since the establishment of the wine and brandy company in 1918. It’s the first time the artworks will be seen outside La Concorde, the company’s head office in Main Street, Paarl.

The brainchild of art appraiser, Stephan Welz, the collection is built around the 1977 wood-carved panel that Skotnes created especially for KWV, titled The Origin Of Wine, which is based on one of the oldest stories of humankind, The Epic of Gilgamesh.

The rest of the collection features two series of works that were created for KWV’s 1979 and 1982 art-calendar projects, and the 1982 series, which depicts 12 extraordinary landscapes from the Cape region where KWV’s wines are produced.

Curator Elsa Hoogenhout describes the exhibition as a “truly rewarding” project, adding: “The company [KWV] has a very unique collection of art, which includes works by Irma Stern, Maggie Laubser and Gregoire Boonzaier. It is a privilege to share some of these with South African art lovers in a variety of galleries.”

The Tatham Art Gallery in Chief Albert Luthuli Street (Commercial Road), Pietermaritzburg, is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. Admission is free. Inquiries: 033 392 2800. — Supplied.


AS part of the exhibition, KWV has launched the Epic of Everlasting treasure hunt, which takes place at every location where the exhibition is hosted. The winner of the treasure hunt will receive a 15-litre bottle of Laborie wine, which will be refilled for the rest of the winner’s life.

Details about the treasure hunt, and the clues that will be released are available on the website Fans can also find regular updates on the Epic’s Facebook site and Twitter.



Cecil Skotnes was born in 1926 in East London, the son of missionaries Edwin Eilertson and Florence Kendall.

While he was at school in Johannesburg, a woodworking teacher, Johan Couzyn, who had been an assistant to Anton van Wouw and a friend of Eugene Marais, got him to make his first sculpture — a portrait of a Bushman — which was given to the director of education when he visited the school.

When he turned 17, Skotnes joined the South African Artillery, serving in Egypt and Italy, and spending several months in Florence, where he befriended an Austrian writer whose brother Heinrich Steiner, a painter, gave him his first serious art lessons.

After completing a fine-art degree at Wits, he took over Polly Street, a recreation centre, to head both art and music activities. It became a refuge and the only art school for black South Africans in the country. Among the students were Sydney Kumalo and Ephraim Ngatane.

In the sixties, Skotnes’s career as a painter took off and he was encouraged by a friend, the master goldsmith and art collector, Egon Guenther, to try woodcutting. It proved to be a perfect medium.

His early woodcuts were of landscapes, influenced by the work of Willie Baumeister and Rudolph Sharpf, but his contrasting experiences of the European and the African landscape drove him to try to develop a style that was uniquely South African.

Although Skotnes was later to return to painting, woodcutting and engraving were enduringly loved medium.

Skotnes died on April 4, 2009.

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