Eleanor Frances Esmonde-White

(1914 - 2007)

About

Esmonde-White was born 1914 in Dundee, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Not much is known about her upbringing, but she did experience formal training in the arts, starting from 1932, when she enrolled at the University of Natal. Here she was taught under O J Oxley until 1934. In 1935-36 Esmonde-White attended the Royal College of Art, in London, during her studies in London; she was awarded Herbert Baker Scholarship to study mural painting in London and Italy. Finally in 1937 she studied at the British School in Rome.

Between 1938 and 1954 Esmonde-White was a member of the New Group. In 1951 she established and taught in the department of design at Michaelis School of Fine Art, in Cape Town, till 1960. During her career as an artist, she was involved in illustration of various children’s books. In 1959 she designed stage sets and costumes for ballet and opera performed at the University of Cape Town. In 1963 she was involved in stage and costume designs for CAPAB dramas. This is an aspect which influenced her work, instilling a sense of the theatrical in her use of often dramatically stylised compositions and use of warm, strong colour.

Esmonde-White’s works are primarily figure compositions, often focusing on the subject of women and their actions.  Esmonde-White’s painting changed over the years, her earlier works more linear in concept with less sensuous forms. Gradually, through her practice, the strong outline faded, and more emphasis was put on the painterly quality in large coloured areas. Her works are primarily in oil, with large amounts of graphic works including African inspired woodcuts. The dramatic colour use and expressive brush work is characteristic of Esmonde-White’s painting.

  • Studies

    1932 - 1934

    University of Natal, under Professor O J P Oxley

    1935 - 1936

    Royal College of Art, London under Sir William Rotherstein, Gilbert Spences and Eric Ravilious

    1935 - 1937

    Awarded the Herbert Baker Scholarship to study mural painting in London and Italy

    1937

    British School, Rome

  • Exhibitions

    1952

    First of numerous Group Exhibitions, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein

    Van Riebeeck Tercentenary Exhibition, Cape Town

    1954 - 1955

    International Colour Woodcut Exhibition, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

    1955

    Exhibited regularly on the Biennial International Graphic Exposition, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia

    1956

    First Quadrennial Exhibition of South African Art

    Venice Biennale

    1957

    São Paulo Biennale

    1958

    First Solo exhibition, Cape Town

    1960

    Second Quadrennial Exhibition of South Africa

    1961

    São Paulo Biennale (Graphic)

    1964

    Venice Biennale (Graphic)

    1966

    Republic Festival Exhibition, Pretoria

    1978

    restige Exhibition, National Museum, Bloemfontein

  • Collections

    Public – South Africa

    • Rembrandt Art Foundation
    • Polokwane Collection

    Museums & Galleries – South Africa

    • Iziko South Africa National Gallery, Cape Town
    • Durban Art Gallery
    • William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley
    • Hester Rupert Museum, Graaff-Reinet
    • Pretoria Art Museum
    • Johannesburg Art Gallery

    Universities – South Africa

    • University of Witwatersrand Galleries
    • University of the Free State
  • Awards

    1936

    Prix de Rome

    1952

    Cape Tercentenary Foundation Award for Design

  • Public Commissions

    1935 - 1937

    South Africa House, London with Le Roux Smith Le Roux (Mural)

    1938

    Queen Elizabeth Liner with Le Roux Smith Le Roux (Mural)

    Science Museum, London (Mural)

    1942

    New Law Courts, Johannesburg (Mural)

    1951

    Overland Pavilion, Festival of Britain, South Bank, London (Mural)

    1952

    van Riebeek Tercentenary Festival (Mural)

    Cape Province Library, Cape Town (Mosaic)

    1966

    Welkom Civic Theatre (Tapestry)

    1969

    Divisional Council Chamber, Cape Town (Tapestry)

    1972

    Nico Malan Opera House, Cape Town (Tapestry)

    1977

    Baxter Theatre, Cape Town (Tapestry)

  • Bibliography

    Berman, E. Art and Artists of South Africa. 1996. Southern Book Publishers: Johannesburg

    Ogilvie, G. The Dictionary of South African Painters and Sculptors. 1988. Everard Read: Johannesburg

Artwork