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John Henry Amshewitz - South African Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - John Henry Amshewitz (1882 - 1942)

John Henry Amshewitz was born in Ramsgate, England 1882 - 1942

Art Education
- 1898 – 1900 Birbeck Institute, London. J H Amshewitz won art scholarship to Royal Academy Schools;
- 1900 – 1907 Studied art at Royal Academy Schools under Sargent and other Royal Academicians. Won Academy prize for mural decoration.

Short Artist Biography
- J H Amshewitz was the son of a Rabbi on the staff on Montefiore College, England. His precocious talent attracted the attention of leading Academicians and led to his admission on a scholarship to Royal Academy Schools.
- 1907 J H Amshewitz won commission for murals in City Hall, Liverpool; broke his thigh in a fall while working on that commission.
- 1910 J H Amshewitz commissioned to paint murals for Royal Exchange, London. The two important mural undertakings drew attention to the young artist and other recognition followed.
- 1914 J H Amshewitz was rejected by the British army because of thigh injury. Elected Member of Royal Society of British Artists (RBA);
- 1916 Accepted leading role of Perlmutter in theatrical production, ‘Potash and Perlmutter’, for six month tour of South Africa; stayed six years. J H Amshewitz was founder-member of Johannesburg Sketch Club, subsequently became President. Rented studio in ‘The Dome’, Cuthbert’s Buildings, Eloff Street, Johannesburg.
- 1917 J H Amshewitz replaced Denis Santry as cartoonist for ‘Rand Daily Mail’ and ‘Sunday Times; dropped letter ‘c’ from name : elected member of South African Society of Artists. Mentor and critic to Johannesburg artists.
- 1918 Married Sarah Briana Judes, Johannesburg. Commissions scarce, concentrated on easel-painting – mainly painted fantasy scenes.
- 1922 J H Amshewitz returned to England; friends with Sickert.
- 1924 Took charge of South African works at Empire Exhibition, Wembley.
- 1925 – 1930 J H Amshewitz produced 20 etchings, every one included in ‘Fine Prints of the Year’ many portrait commissions; much still-life.
- 1933 Commissioned by Michael Haskel of Johannesburg (South Africa Hon High-Commissioner for Palestine) to paint three historical murals for South Africa House, London; commission caused scandal in South Africa when JH Pierneef condemned Amshewitz’s inclusion on the scheme.
- 1934 Same donor commissioned murals for University of Wits.
- 1936 J H Amshewitz returned to South Africa; regained studio in ‘The Dome’, Johannesburg;
- 1938 Mural for Pretoria City Hall unveiled by JH Hofmeyer;
- 1939 His health deteriorated and he moved to Muizenberg; many sketches and landscapes.
- 1951 Subject of a monograph, ‘The Paintings of JH Amshewitz’ by his widow, Sara Amshewitz.

Art Exhibitions
- 1905 J H Amshewitz first acceptance on Royal Academy (23 years-old); subsequently a regular exhibitor.
- 1916 J H Amshewitz first one-man art exhibition, Johannesburg; followed by many others during his two periods of residence in South Africa; exhibited with Johannesburg Sketch Club and South African Society of Artists.
- 1924 South Africa Section, Empire Exhibition, Wembley. Several exhibitions in London.
- 1943 Memorial Exhibition, Johannesburg.
- 1979 ‘South African Printmakers’, South Africa National Art Gallery, Cape Town.

Public Art Collections
South Africa National Art Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Durban Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley; King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth; Africana Museum, Johannesburg; Albany Museum, Grahamstown; ‘Libertas’; Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London.
Abroad : Metropolitan Museum, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Berman, E. 1994. Art & Artists of South Africa . Southern Book Publishers.

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