Nel Erasmus

Nel Erasmus
Nel Erasmus (born 1928 in Bethal, Transvaal Province, South Africa) is a South African artist. Erasmus obtained a BA in Fine Art at Wits and a NATC at The Witwatersrand Technical College in the early 1950’s. After teaching in art in Johannesburg and London, she settled in France in 1953, studying at the Academie Ranson, Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Sorbonne. Her first solo exhibition was in South Africa in 1957 and she is one of the earliest abstract artists of South Africa. Erasmus has produced thirty solo exhibitions, taken part in more than seventy group exhibitions and her writing has been widely published. Although Erasmus was never a ‘popular’ painter, her work received much critical acclaim and she was the only South African artist to be included in Michel Seuphor’s 1964 survey of abstraction, Abstract Painting: 50 Years of Accomplishment. Nel Erasmus was an early proponent of Abstract Art in South Africa – both as a practice and a principle. Erasmus also influenced the South African art scene as director of the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) (1966–1977). Nel Erasmus worked at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) from 1957 as Professional Officer until her retirement as Director in 1977. She has contributed to the acquisition of artworks to public and corporate (especially Sanlam and Sasol) collections in South Africa, in particular the international modern and contemporary collection at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG). Erasmus’ notorious acquisition in 1973, the year Picasso died, of Pablo Picasso’s Tête d’Arlequin (1971) was made possible by funding from The Friends of the Museum organization. The acquisition of this painting of a clown met with resistance from conservative, censored, isolated, apartheid South Africa, “No normal person would like this painting”, and provoked Erasmus to write a paper about why the acquisition was made. Nel Erasmus is in her 80s and still paints daily. The most recent exhibitions she has participated in were solo exhibitions in 2009 in the Dawid Ras Art Gallery (Johannesburg) and in 2015 in the Dawid Ras Gallery (Cape Town), and since then various group exhibitions.

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