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Walter Battiss - South African Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - Walter Battiss (1906 - 1982)

Walter Battiss was born in Somerset East situated in the Western Cape province of South Africa, 1906 - 1982

Art Education
1929 Three weeks drawing at Wits Tech Art School and evening classes in painting.
1931 - 1932 Johannesburg Training College (Teachers Diploma); etching lessons with Emily Fern.
1941 Completed BA Fine Arts, UNISA

Short Artist Biography
- Walter Battiss was the son of an english methodist family long established in Somerset East, South Africa
- 1917 Battiss family moved to Koffiefontein where an engineer on the local mine first stimulated Walter Battiss' abiding interest in archeology.
- 1919 The family settled in Fauresmith where Walter Battiss matriculated in 1923
- 1924 Walter Battiss became a clerk in the Magistrates Court at Rustenburg; spent his leisure hours painting the surrounding landscapes in a descriptive realism style, signed his work WW Battiss.
- 1929 Transferred to the supreme court in Johannesburg; begins art studies.
- 1933 Receives teaching diploma and begins to teach art at Park School in Johannesburg.
- 1936 Walter Battiss is appointed artmaster at Pretoria Boys' High School; begins serious study of rock art.
- 1938 First visit to Europe where he met Abbe Henri Breuil foundation member of New Group.
- 1939 Published first book ' The Amazing Bushman ' ; discovers rock art treasury at Zastron in the Free State.
- 1940 Walter Battiss married the noted art-educationalist Grace Anderson; his previous realistic painting style begins to acquire hieratic, symbolistic character also works on woodcuts.
- 1944 Exhibits copies of rock paintings in Johannesburg; this is of art historical importance in South Africa as it is the first presentation of this art form from an aesthetic viewpoint.
- 1948 Undergoes expedition to the Namib Desert where he lived among Bushmen; wins bronze medal and diploma for painting and woodcut at International Olympiad Exhibition.
- 1949 Took collection of South African art to Italy for exhibition with International Art Club
- 1952 Walter Battiss invited to lecture on South African art at University of London.
- 1953 Appointed Principal, Pretoria Art Centre
- 1954 Elected member of the Exec Com of International Association of Plastic Arts; elected fellow of Royal Society of Arts; printed first serigraph.
- 1955 Appearance of calligraphic forms, animal and human abstractions, influence of Ndebele beadwork in Walter Battiss' work.
- 1956 Awarded Pro Arte Medal by University of Pretoria.
- 1958 Returned to teach art at Pretoria Boys' High School.
- 1960 Elected fellow of International Institute of Arts and Letters.
- 1962 Began exhibiting many paintings employing palette-knife colour mixing with sgraffito delineation of forms; undergoes various trips through central Africa to Middle East showing a growing interest in Pre-Islamic cultures.
- 1964 Walter Battiss was awarded Medal of Hon our of SA Akademie; appointed professor of Fine Arts, UNISA.
- 1965 Elected honorary member of Academy of Florence; founded 'De Arte' art periodical subsequently published by UNISA.
- 1966 to 1968 Visits to Greece, beginning of the influence of 'Islands' on his creative thinking.
- 1970 Organized first South African exhibition of serigraphs at UNISA.
- 1971 Retired from UNISA.
- 1972 Visits Seychelles and is enchanted by un spoilt nature and simple island life.
- 1973 Walter Battiss receives Hon D Litt et Phil from UNISA; germination of concept of 'Fook Island'.
- 1974/5 'Fook Island' concept crystallizes during travels in America, Middle East and Europe.
- 1975 First 'Fook Island' exhibition with Norman Catherine; death of Grace Battiss.
- 1976 'Fook Island' concept flourishes, acquires South African and international followers.
- 1980 Design 4 stamps for Botswana postal services.
- 1981 Walter Battiss museum opens at his birth place.

Art Exhibitions
- 1927 First one-man exhibition, Masonic Hall, Rustenburg.
- 1929 Joint exhibition with John Lawson, Lezards Gallery Johannesburg followed by numerous one-man exhibitions throughout South Africa.
- 1938 to 1948 'New Group' Exhibitions.
- 1948 Exhibition of South African art, Tate Gallery.
- 1949 to 1952 Art Club South Africa exhibitions in South Africa and Italy.
- 1952 Venice Bienalle.
- 1956 First Quad of South African art; first London Exhibition, Imperial Institute.
- 1957 Sao Paulo Bienalle.
- 1958 Venice Bienalle.
- 1960 Second Quad of South African art.
- 1963 Sao Paulo Bienalle.
- 1964 Second Quad of South African art.
- 1965 Sao Paulo Bienalle (starred artist).
- 1966 Republic Fest Exhibition, Pretoria.
- 1974 Contemporary South African Art, Athens.
- 1975 South African Art, National Gallery of Rhodesia, Salisbury.
- 1978/9 South African graphic art touring West Germany; Art from South Africa touring USA.
- 1979/80 Comprehensive one-man exhibition, all major South African art museums.
- 1979 'Watercolours from South Africa', Nuremburg, Germany; South African Printmakers, South African National Art Gallery Cape Town.

Public Art Collections
South African National Art Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum, Durban Art Gallery, William Humphreys Gallery Kimberley, Hester Rupert Museum, UNISA, Cincinnati Gallery USA, Rembrandt Art Foundation, University of Witwatersrand Gallery, Anne Bryant Gallery East London, King George VI Gallery Port Elizabeth, Sandton Municipal Collection.

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

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