Nel Erasmus was born in Bethal in 1928 and currently lives and works in Johannesburg. She obtained her B.A. degree (Fine Arts) in 1950 from the University of the Witwatersrand and, in 1952, the National Art Teacher’s Certificate from the Witwatersrand Technical College. Further studies followed under the Czech-German painter, Gina Berndtson, at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts and Académie Ranson, Paris, France (1953 – 1955), and the Académie Ranson, Paris, France (1960 – 1961). From 1957 to 1977 Erasmus worked at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, initially as a Professional Officer and during the last decade as Director. Since then she has become a full-time artist.
Erasmus has held more than 30 solo exhibitions in all the major centres in South Africa, from the first, in 1957, at the Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg, until the most recent, in 2012: Review; a retrospective exhibition, SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch.
Previous retrospective exhibitions: 2000, in the Sasol Art Museum, Stellenbosch University; 1986, at the Pretoria Art Museum; 1985, at the Iziko South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town; the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein and the US Art Gallery, Stellenbosch.
Erasmus took part in 90 group exhibitions, the first in 1950 at the Arts Festival (Council of Cultural Societies), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; the 10th Salon des Realities Nouvelles, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, France in 1955; Vyftig Jaar van Abstrakte Kuns, Gallery Creuze, Paris, France, 1957; Tweede Paryse Biennale, Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, France 1961; São Paulo Biennale, Brazil, 1965; Republic Festival Exhibition, Pretoria, 1966; ‘n Eeu van Suid-Afrikaanse Kuns, Johannesburg, 1969, and in 1978/79, Art in South Africa, touring the United States of America. The latest exhibition was in 2012: Collection 17(SMAC), at the Aardklop National Arts Festival, Potchefstroom.
Represented in Art Collections
Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Johan- nesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein; Hester Rupert Art Museum, Graaff-Reinet; Sanlam Art Collection, Cape Town; Sasol Art Collection, Johannesburg; Polokwane Municipal Art Collection; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannes- burg; University of Johannesburg; Stellenbosch University; University of North-West, Potchefstroom Campus; University of the Free State, Bloemfontein; Rembrandt Art Foundation, Stellenbosch; Telkom, Pretoria; Rand Merchant Bank, Cape Town; Anglo American, Johan- nesburg; Dimension Data, Johannesburg.
The artist communicates with Jazz baby spent autumn a dynamic multi-faceted interchange of forms and marks on the flat surface. The main element, a Y-form in the picture, suggests a process of genesis, becoming and change.
In their multiplicity, forms are expressions of the unlimited freedom of the human being, freed on a spiritual level from the limits set by time and tradition. Jazz baby spent autumn reflects mankind’s preparedness to step into other living spaces – spaces that are free of cause and antecedent. (Theron 1992)
Even though the portrayals in her work move away from realism, she does not see her work as abstract. She believes something of the philosophy of the Freedom of the Sixties found in the Afrikaans literature that can be detected in her art. (Die Volksblad, 11 November 1991). At this stage, authors such as Jan Rabie and Bartho Smit crossed her path.
Jazz baby spent autumn (1991), acrylic paint on paper on board, 101 x 68cm
Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein
Copyright Nel Erasmus. Photos courtesy of SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch.