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“I'd rather be a glorious failure, than a mediocre success.”

Walter Battiss

1906 - 1982​


Walter Battiss, an internationally renowned South African artist, was born in Somerset East (now called KwaNojoli).  His upbringing in the Eastern Cape town greatly influenced his artistic style and interests.   


Battiss made significant contributions to our country's art scene particularly his exploration of indigenous art and his role in the development of abstract art in the country.  He documented extensive amounts of KhoiSan Rock Art and published many books on the topic.  Many of these are available for viewing at our museum. 


Battiss was a founding member of the influential art movement known as the New Group, which aimed to break away from traditional European artistic conventions and explore uniquely South African identities and experiences. His bold use of color, intricate patterns, and imaginative compositions set him apart and earned him international recognition.   


Battiss is considered to be South Africa’s best water colour painter to this day.  He spent time with Pablo Picasso when he lived in Paris.  He even represented South Africa at La Bienalle di Venezia (otherwise known as the “world cup of art”) in 1950.  His painting Father and Son in the Rocks, which used elements he saw in Rock Art, was so controversial at the time, it was discussed in parliament.  It is now on show at our museum.  

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