Peter Edward Clarke

(1929 - 2014)


“The child in me has accompanied the adult that I am into old age. So, as far as I am concerned, it is essential to be honest and to be irreverent at times and to have a sense of humour as well.” Peter Clarke

Born in Simonstown 1929, Peter Clarke was the third of six children and from an early age showed an active interest in drawing. This was eagerly pursued by studying under John Coplans in the District Six art Group between 1947 and 1948, followed in 1961 by just a few months at the Michaelis School of Art under Katrine Harries and Maurice van Essche before leaving to become a dock worker. Clarke’s established artistic motivation was already fundamental in his outlook of life, which has been translated across many mediums as a result. These outlets range from drawing, painting, artist’s books, collage and graphic works, but also extend to an immensely accomplished and untaught literary background that has spanned across his long and affluent career.

It was in 1956 that Clarke made the vital decision to return full-time to art and writing, immediately finding interest in his graphic works, setting the precedence for the works of art that he would best become known for over the many decades, receiving the Drum International Short Story Award in 1955 followed by further international acclaim.

The charismatically magnetic imagery that he created shows a defined interest in coloured identity and political commentary in a structured form of narrative, coherent with his dual interest in both writing and in imagery. Clarke’s works are imbedded with a sense of satirical humour that gives each and every one of his pieces a textural depth and palimpsestic narrative; individual and intriguing. 

Clarke moves freely between each of his mediums, including writing, using whichever is most appropriate to his idea, sometimes with a result of combining them. His earliest influences include the works of Mexican artists between the 1930 and 50s and also German Expressionism. The art of Japanese Prints has also been an influence in Clarke’s work across his career. Growing up and living through a difficult time in South African history, the effects are inextricable from Clarke’s works, yet his reaction in this can be described as observational, commenting more on everyday life rather than being actively political. His views have been unremittingly positive in regard to the change from Apartheid to a democracy within the art environment. Consequently his works have shown progressive characteristics that not only mark points of his life, but also do so historically.

Peter Clarke’s life and work shows an enthusiastic and intelligent commitment that is reflected in the undeniable local and international commendation that has been received. Making the best of the limited working space in his home where he produces most of works, over the entirety of his career Clarke has produced an enormous portfolio which is shown across the world. His background, development as an artist and characteristically incisive scope of work has positioned him as one of South Africa’s most interesting and significant artists both past and present. Peter Clarke passed away at the age of 85 in the peace of his Ocean View home, where he had lived and worked in the heart of a community to whom he was a mentor, role-model and larger-than-life figure for so many years.

  • Studies


    Night classes at St. Philips School with the District Six Art Group under John Coplans


    Technical College, Roeland Street, Cape Town

    1947 - 1952

    Member of various informal art groups in Cape Town


    Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town

    1959 - 1963

    Rijks Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


    Atelier Nord, Oslo, Norway

  • Exhibitions


    Participated in various group exhibitions held across South Africa, Yugoslavia, West Germany, Brazil, Austria, Italy, Holland, Belgium, America, Argentina, Norway, Botswana, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom


    First solo exhibition, Golden City Post, Cape Town


    South African Graphic Art Exhibition, Yugoslavia


    South African Graphic Art Exhibition, Galerie Schoninger, Munich, West Germany

    São Paulo Biennial


    5thInternational Graphic Art Biennale, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia; Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria


    Venice Biennale, Italy


    Solo exhibition, Mbari Cultural Centre, Ibadan, Nigeria

    Solo exhibition, Chem-Chemi Cultural Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

    6thInternational Graphic Art Biennale, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia


    First International Graphic Exhibition, Palazzo Strozzo, Florence, Italy


    Second International Graphic Exhibition, Palazzo Strozzo, Florence, Italy


    Solo exhibition, Edrich Gallery, Stellenbosch


    South African Graphic Art Exhibition, touring The Netherlands, Belgium and West Germany


    Tercera Bienal Internacional del Grabado, Buenos Aires, Argentina


    Solo exhibition, Shell Harbour Art Centre, Shell Harbour, NSW, Australia

    Group exhibition, Pratt Graphics Centre, New York, USA

    1973 - 1974

    Solo exhibition, Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee


    Solo exhibition, Kuumba Workshop, Southside, Chicago, USA

    1977 - 1978

    Solo exhibition ‘Our World is a Ghetto’, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town

    Solo exhibition, Community Art Project, Mowbray, Cape Town

    Solo exhibition, Public Library, Grassy Park, Cape Town


    Pratt Institute, New York, USA

    1979 - 1982

    Group exhibition, Graphic Art, Atelier Nord, Oslo, Norway


    Solo exhibition ‘Illusions and Other Realities’, Atlantic Art Gallery, Cape Town


    Exhibition of South African Art, National Gallery, Gaborone, Botswana


    International Exhibition of Prints, Kanagawa, Japan


    Exhibition of Masterworks on Paper, South African National Gallery

    International Exhibition of Prints, Kanagawa, Japan

    Exhibition at Jerusalem Artists’ House, Israel

    Norwegian International Print Biennale, Frederikstad, Norway


    Group exhibition,‘FUBA: A Selection of Work by Distinguished Black Artists’,Grenchen, Switzerland (Internationale Triennale Fur Originale Graphik)


    Solo exhibition, Chelsea Gallery, Wynberg, Cape Town

    Bienal Internacional de Gravura, Campinas, Brazil

    Exhibition at Museum fur Volkerkunde, Frankfurt, W. Germany


    Group exhibition, ‘Freedom Now’, Namibian Independence Exhibition, Windhoek, Namibia


    Retrospective exhibition ‘The Hand is the Tool of the Soul’, IZIKO South African National Galleries/Natale Labia Museum, Cape Town


    3rdTriennial International Exhibition of Prints, Auvergne, France


    18th Triennial World Exhibition of Prints, Kanagawa, Japan


    Drawings of Tesselaarsdal, Caledon Museum


    Solo exhibition 'Vital Expressions', Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town


    Solo exhibition ‘A Personal View’, Lipschitz Gallery, Cape Town

    Solo Exhibition ‘Vital Expressions’, Natal Technikon Art Gallery, Durban


    Exhibition at Bertolt Brecht House, Berlin, German

    2000 - 2001

    City Press Exhibition 'Baggage'

    Participated in Manuscript Exhibition 3 (Art Studio), Johannesburg


    Solo exhibition, Exeter, United Kingdom


    Collection of Books Exhibited at Natal Technikon, Kwa Zulu Natal


    Exhibited in AVA 'Surface=/=Print', Cape Town as part of Impact Conference


    Retrospective exhibitionListening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke,Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg (4 May to 2 July 2011)


    Group exhibition, “Portrait de l’Afrique du Sud: An exhibition of artworks by George Hallett, Peter Clarke and Gerard Sekoto”, Paris, France (30 October – 27 November

  • Collections

    Public Collections - International

    • Baerum Kommune, Sandvika, Norway
    • Dennis W. Koles, Kiama, NSW, Australia
    • Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
    • Johnson Publishing Co., Chicago, USA
    • Kunsthalle Museen der Stadt Bielefeld, Germany
    • Library of Congress, Washington D.C., USA
    • Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, Yugoslavia
    • Museum of African American Art, LA, USA
    • National Museum and Art Gallery, Gaborone, Botswana,
    • Stichting Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal, Holland

    Public Collections – South Africa

    • Cape Town City Library, Cape Town
    • Community Arts Project
    • Municipal Collection, Fish Hoek, Cape Town

    Corporate Collections - South Africa

    • Fuba Collection, Johannesburg
    • PAM; Nasou Publishing Co, Cape Town
    • Sasol Collection, Stellenbosch
    • SA Fine Worsted Co, Cape Town
    • Pentech, Bellville, Cape Town

    Galleries & Museums

    • Arnold Becher Museum,
    • Caledon Municipal Museum, Caledon
    • District Six Museum, Cape Town
    • Durban Art Museum, Durban
    • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth
    • Municipal Museum, Simon's Town
    • Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria
    • South African National Gallery; University of Fort Hare, Alice
    • William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley, SA
    • IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town


    • Livingstone High School, Claremont
    • North-West University, North-West
    • University of Stellenbosch, Western Province
    • University of the Western Cape, Western Province
    • University of Zululand, Kwa-Zulu Natal
    • Durban University of Technology, Kwa-Zulu Natal
    • University of South Africa, Pretoria

    Private Collections

    • Hymie and Jean Berndt, Kenilworth, Western Cape
    • Bruce Campbell Smith Collection
  • Awards


    Honorary Fellow in Writing, University of Iowa, USA


    Diploma of Merit in Art, Academia Italia


    Honorary Doctor of Literature, World Academy of Arts and Culture, Taipei, Taiwan


    Honorary Member of the Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles, USA


    Awarded the Molteno Award for services to the visual arts by the Cape Tercentenary Foundation


    Awarded the Order of Ikhamga (Silver) by President Thabo Mbeki


    Awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arts and Culture Trust