Bettie Cilliers-Barnard dies

2010-09-16 09:27

Pretoria – Artist Bettie Cilliers-Barnard died early on Wednesday morning in her home in Menlo Park, Pretoria. She was 95.

Cilliers-Barnard had recently become frail and was confined to her bed.

Her son, Wimcar Cilliers, said although he had expected his mother's death, it was still a big blow.

"We are grateful for her rich life and for the time she always spent with other people."

Her daughter, actress Jana Cilliers, said she had secretly thought that her mother "would never die, but would just become smaller on the horizon".

"I will remember her for always putting beauty and harmony above anything else. That remains a strong memory," she said.

“What she passed on to me – in fact, it was what I had always experienced of her – was her sense of things."

Her work

Cilliers-Barnard had been honoured several times for her contribution to South African painting. Last year, she was the festival artist at the Innibos Festival in Nelspruit and earlier this year, a retrospective exhibition was held at the University of Pretoria where she studied.

She was too weak to attend the exhibition in Nelspruit.

Cilliers-Barnard started painting in the late 1930s and over the years kept experimenting with colour, lines, abstraction and figurative abstractions.

In the 1970s, birds unexpectedly started appearing in her work – which could be described as part of her earthly symbolism. She referred to this work as her "flights of the spirit".

In 2004, she exhibited new work for the last time at Colour as Language, an exhibition which also included older work (1937 to 1961) from her family’s private collection.

The small woman with the great art work still spoke on her 90th birthday about how she would paint on a big canvass by standing with each leg on a separate bench.

She worked especially at night – "because the night doesn't have shadows", she maintained.

Stephan Welz, art expert and executive director of Strauss & Co, believes Cilliers-Barnard's work doesn’t fetch very high prices currently "because she is part of the forgotten generation who experienced the worst of the cultural isolation during apartheid."

"She didn't enjoy the support in her prime."


  • tiogerber - 2010-09-16 10:17

    I had the pleasure of meeting "Tannie Bettie" in her house in Menlo Park. She was as warm to us, as she would be to any stranger she meets. A true lady of elegance and joy! May her work be established amongst the greatest that our country have to offer. She was an inspiration to many - and her heritage will be remembered through her brush strokes...

  • Ilse Bamberger - 2010-09-19 22:02

    Yes,what a wonderful artist and friend she was! Ons dink aan julle, Jana en Wimcar.Julle het seker altyd haar liefde en regverdige trots op julle loopbaan gevoel.A part of my youth leaves with her too ,I owed her a lot and shall always be thankful to her.Nous vous embrassons très,très fort. Liefdegroete, Ilse en Jacques

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