JOHANNES MEINTJES

Artist, Author and Historian


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'Johannes was something of a Renaissance man. First of all, artist. Then author, historian, archivist and even sort-of farmer. Above all, he was a thoughtful, loving and loveable human being who thought very deeply about the human condition'.
Tertius Myburgh, Sunday Times (Editor), 1990





JOHANNES MEINTJES
SUMMARY BIOGRAPHY

Born: Riversdale, 19 May 1923                 ◊◊◊ DOWNLOAD GENEALOGY (171KB) BY RIA VAN DEN HEEVER
Died: Molteno, 7 July 1980

1923 - 1928
The son of a sheep farmer; spent his first five years on the family farm Grootzeekoegat in the Molteno district (Eastern Cape).

1928
After the early death of his father, the family moved to Riversdale; he became friendly with the elderly Abraham Volschenk, drew and painted from childhood and won his first prize at the age of 15 years.

1938
The family moved to Cape Town and the 15 year old boy began serious art study under Florence Zerffi (widow of Stratford Caldecot). The speech Meintjes wrote for the Voortrekker Commemoration was broadcast countrywide (and also read by him).

1940
An exhibition of Maggie Laubser's work evoked his ardent admiration; he wrote a fan letter to her and a life long close friendship developed.

1941 - 1943
Studies languages at the University of Cape Town where he completes a BA degree and published a book on Maggie Laubser at the age of 21 (which became a sought-after Africana item later on).
During this period close and life long friendships formed with individuals such as Hubert du Plessis, NP van Wyk Louw, May Hillhouse, Cecil Higgs and Nerine Desmond.
He became the youngest member ever of the exclusive 'K'-club and an exhibition of his paintings caused a sensation. Sells his first painting on 28 February 1942 for nine guineas.
Completes his first life-sized sculpture in 1942.
He published two articles during this period and won the prize for the best Afrikaans article in the Silver Jubilee Edition of 'Groote Schuur'.



1944
Moved to Johannesburg to assist Gerrit Bakker with his new bookshop and rented a studio in Market Street. During this period friendships formed with i.a Rosa Nepgen, Hermien Dommisse, Walter Battiss and Alexis Preller.
His first exhibition (Gainsborough Gallery, 29 August to 11 September 1944) caused a stir in Johannesburg and Cape Town and he became famous overnight. The fame he enjoyed as a 21 year old artist is unequalled in the South African history of art.
Some of Meintjes' first short stories were published during this period.
Moved back to Cape Town and taught art at SA College School and Jan Van Riebeeck High School, Cape Town.
Group exhibition with Gerard Sekoto, Jean Welz and Maud Sumner.

1945
Designs for ballet costumes exhibited in USA (currently housed at the New York Public Library).
Successful exhibitions (Johannesburg and Cape Town) provided funds for study in London, Paris and Amsterdam.

1945 - 1947
While in London, studying at the Central School of Arts, worked part time as broadcaster for the BBC with composer Arnold van Wyk.


1947
Returned to Cape Town; worked at painting, broadcasting and writing.
Lectured at the Worcester School of Drama and lectured art at the Cape Technical College.
Decor and costume design for Aeonian ballet group.
Exhibitions in Cape Town and Pretoria. Publication of 'Kamerade'.
Group exhibition with Walter Battiss, Gregoire Boonzaier, Cecil Higgs and Maggie Laubser.
Lectures at the British Art Exhibition in company of Ruth Prowse, Gregoire Boonzaier and Nerine Desmond.

1948
Exhibitions in Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein and Cape Town.
Publication of 'Johannes Meintjes : Lyrical Works'.
Download introduction 'Meintjes : Lyrical Works' in ◊ ENGLISH or ◊ AFRIKAANS
Illustrations for the book 'Sebastiaan' (limited edition of 100 copies).

1949
Exhibitions in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein.
Won award from 'Die Vaderland' for 'most original SA painting'.
Also won an 'Oscar' art award (together with Maggie Laubser and Edoardo Villa).
The press speculates that Johannes Meintjes, Maggie Laubser and JH Pierneef will become the future 'SA Masters'.
Published further essays and short stories.
Retreated to family farm, Grootzeekoegat, to write and paint in total seclusion; restored the historical farm building, which was originally built in 1824.

1950
Exhibition in Cape Town, Queenstown, Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
Also group exhibition with Walter Battiss, Otto Klar and Maggie Laubser.


1951
Exhibition in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Publication of further articles as well as publication on SA sculptor 'Anton Anreith'.
Group exhibition with Erich Mayer, Maggie Laubser, Ruth Prowse, Lawrence Scully and Gregoire Boonzaier.
His drama 'Die Blanke Stilte' awarded with the Literary Award during the Van Riebeeck Commemoration Festival (shared the award with Uys Krige).

1952
Exhibition at Van Riebeeck Commemoration Festival in Cape Town; also further exhibitions in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria. His 'pornographic' art caused a stir in Port Elizabeth.
Publication of 'Die Blanke Stilte'.

1953
Exhibition in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.
Participated in group exhibition at Rhodes Festival in Bulawayo. (A quote from a fan letter at the time: 'I still feel like a Christian who had witnessed a miracle - exhalted, uplifted and close to God').

1954
Exhibitions in Cape Town and Durban.

1955
Ended period of seclusion and returned to Johannesburg.
Exhibitions in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Publication of his novel 'Stormsvlei' which was awarded at the Centenary Festival of Pretoria.
Publication of 'Frontier Family'. Public debate in press with Lawrence van der Post on the Afrikaner's attitude towards other ethnic groups. Met William Plomer and a life long friendship followed.

1956
Exhibitions in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Dame Sybil Thorndike requested him to do her portrait which caused a sensation in the local press.

1957
Exhibitions in Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Heidelberg.
Art critics compared Meintjes as the South African equivalent of Cézanne, Gauguin and Chagall.
Meintjes' drama 'Die Soekendes' awarded by APB.

1958
Exhibition in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Left for Europe again to study in London, Amsterdam and Paris.
Publication of 'Die Soekendes'.

1959
Exhibitions in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

1960
Married Ronell Rossouw. Exhibitions in Pretoria, East London and Johannesburg.
Publication of 'Complex Canvas: A South African Approach (to The Cape Province)'.
First stage production of his play 'Die Soekendes'.
Group exhibitions with i.a. Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller, Maud Sumner, Maurice van Essche, Otto Klar, Cecily Sash and G Cattaneo.

1961
Exhibitions in Pretoria, Durban, Springs, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Publication of 'Dagboek 1'.
Group exhibition at UNISA.

1962
Exhibitions in Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

1963
Exhibitions in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Publication of novel 'Gister is Vandag' and publication of 'Jeugjare'.
Press refers to Meintjes as the 'Golden Boy' of SA art scene.
Exhibition of Meintjes' works in the USA.

1964
Exhibitions in Molteno and Johannesburg. Exhibition in Washington, D.C.
Publication of 'Mallemeule', 'Manor House' and 'A. Lomax Portret van 'n Suid Afrikaanse Dorp'.
Group exhibition with i.a. George Boys, Gordon Vorster, Cecily Sash and Dirk Meerkotter on invitation by the Rembrandt Art Foundation.



1965
Received a literary award from PEN.
Returned permanently to Grootzeekoegat, Molteno.
Exhibitions in Cape Town and Pretoria.
Publication of biography 'Olive Schreiner Portrait of a South African Woman'. (The President of the SA English Academy described this work in 1975 as the 'best study ever on Olive Schreiner').
Publication of 'The Silent Conspiracy'.
Group exhibition with i.a. Lukas Sithole, Christo Coetzee, Maggie Laubser, Armando Baldinelli and Maud Sumner.

1966
Exhibitions in Johannesburg and Molteno.
Participated on invitation in Republic Festival Exhibition in Pretoria as well as the opening of the Hester Rupert Art Museum.
Publication of his (commissioned) biography on General De la Rey, 'De la Rey Lion of the West'. International acclaim as author followed. Publication of De la Rey in serial format in 'The Star'.

1967
Appointment as honorary curator of George Vice Memorial Museum.
Exhibitions in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Publication of De la Rey in serial format in an Afrikaans newspaper.


1969
Exhibitions in Johannesburg and Molteno.
Publication of biography on General Gideon Scheepers, 'Sword in the Sand Gideon Scheepers' as well as (English) biography on President Steyn. Publication of 'Stormberg A Lost Opportunity'.

1970
Exhibition in Port Elizabeth.
Publication of the (Afrikaans) biography on President Steyn, 'Steyn Vader van sy Volk'.
Publication of biography on General Louis Botha; favourable comments in the press (from amongst others) by William Plomer (UK) and Declercq (Netherlands).
Publication of 'The Round Table in South Africa'.
His book on President Steyn is broadcast on national radio.



1971
Exhibition in Johannesburg.
Publication of biography on General Piet Joubert, 'The Commandant General P J Joubert'.
Publication of 'Sandile - The Fall of the Xhosa Nation'.
Publication of short stories and essays, 'Siembamba'.

1972
Exhibition in Cape Town.
Publication of' Dagboek 2'.

1973
Appointed as executive member of Burgersdorp Museum.
Exhibition in Johannesburg in commemoration of his 50th birthday.
Publication of 'The Voortrekkers' (prescribed at Oxford University; also published in Corgi paperback).

1974
Appointed as member of the 'SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns'.
Exhibitions in Cape Town and Molteno.
Publication of biography 'President Kruger'. Publication of ' Dorp van Drome : Molteno 1874 - 1974'.

1975
Exhibition in Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.
Publication of the commissioned book 'SASOL: 1950 - 1975' in both Afrikaans and English.
Publication of 'Dagboek 3'.

1976
Exhibition in Sasolburg.
Publication of 'The Anglo Boer War 1899 - 1902: A Pictorial History' (Afrikaans and English editions, later also published in German and Dutch).
Publication of 'The Great Boer War : Arthur Conan Doyle 1'.

1977
Exhibitions in Stellenbosch, Bellville and Molteno.
Publication of 'With Bobs and Kruger : Frederic William Unger 2'.

1978
Exhibition in Lichtenburg.
Prestige group exhibition in Salisbury, Bulawayo and Johannesburg with Geoffrey Armstrong, Armando Baldinelli, Maud Sumner, Gordon Vorster, Walter Battiss and Rhona Stern.

1979
Exhibition on invitation at University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
Exhibition in Ficksburg.

1980
Exhibition on invitation at University of Port Elizabeth.
Died on 7 July 1980.
At the time of his death, Meintjes had painted more than 1 336 oil paintings, produced dozens of sculptor pieces as well as hundreds of sketches, temperas, graphic works and watercolours.
Several published books (35) and even many more unpublished manuscripts are all evidence of his creative energy.
More than 1 400 newspaper and magazine articles were written about Meintjes during his lifetime. Following his death, most of Meintjes' manuscripts, letters, diaries, etc were presented to National English Literary Museum (NELM), Grahamstown to be housed in a Johannes Meintjes Memorial Room.

1981
Publication of 'Eeu van Genade: NG Kerk Molteno 1881 - 1981'.

1982
Television programme on the life and work of Meintjes.

1983
Memorial exhibition on invitation at University of Orange Free State, Bloemfontein.

1986
Opening of Johannes Meintjes Room, Molteno (permanent exhibition). The Molteno High School in the Eastern Cape houses an important collection of more than 70 art works representing Johannes Meintjes' creative output.
 
◊◊◊ CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE MEINTJES ROOM
 

1990
Prestige memorial exhibition on invitation at the Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg.
Dr Hermien McCaul-Dommisse (who also opened Meintjes' first exhibition in 1944) opened this exhibition.
Prestige memorial exhibition on invitation for the works of Meintjes and Alexis Preller in Pretoria. Prestige memorial exhibition on invitation at the National Museum, Bloemfontein.



1996
Death of his widow, Ronell Meintjes.
A portion of her collection of Meintjes art works was bequeathed to the University of Stellenbosch.

2004
First electronic publication of some of Meintjes' books (Victoria, Australia)
http://www.cdbooks-r-us.com

2006
Archival website by The Haenggi Foundation (Basel, Switzerland)
http://www.art-archives-southafrica.ch/MEINTJES.htm

2009
Launch of the archival website http://www.johannes-meintjes.co.za

2010
Memorial exhibition at Stellenbosch University’s Art Museum : 14 July to 28 August 2010
Release of the facsimile edition of 'London Diaries' (1946 and 1958) ISBN 978-0-620-47398-9

2012
New record price of R668,400 (US $77,500) paid for Meintjes painting at Strauss & Company’s auction on 8 October 2012

◊◊◊ CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD CATALOGUE OF EXHIBITION
 



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