“To me it's a great miracle that the people of a small Karoo dorp wanted art so badly that they made it possible for the top artists of South Africa to co-operate with me to bring this about. Now people from all over the world can come to Somerset East and see the miracle.” Walter Battiss
On 24th October 1981, in a ceremony attended by family, friends, and colleagues of Professor Walter Battiss, the grand old man of South African art stood in front of the old Officer’s Mess in his birthplace, Somerset East, and bequeathed a collection of his work to “the people of Somerset East - all the people of Somerset East, and the people of South Africa - all the people of South Africa”. Friends and colleagues donated their own works to be part of the Museum collection. Battiss’ ex pupil and great friend, Professor Murray Schoonraad assisted by curating the collection.
The Museum houses over 70 original Walter Battiss artworks, as well as a collection of books that he wrote, and fifty books from his personal library, which were sent from the Durban Technicon in 2017. There are also a few pieces of furniture from the Battiss family home displayed.
In addition to the artworks and photographs of Walter Battiss in the Museum, one of the highlights is a video made by the SABC shortly before his death, if you have the time, it is a must watch to get to know this incredible man just a little, for yourself.