Terence John McCaw

(1913 - 1978)


Terence McCaw was born in Pilgrim’s Rest in the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga). Between 1930 and 1933 he studied at the Witwatersrand Technical College under Sydney Carter and Emily Fern. In 1935, subsequent to his studies at the Wits Technical Art School, McCaw studied at the Heatherly’s School of Art and the Central School of Art in London, with his contemporaries, Freida Lock and Gregoire Boonzaier. The trio participated in exhibitions with the London Group, and, upon returning to Cape Town in 1937, became founding members of the New Group. They campaigned for a fresh vision in the South African art world that would embrace the new European movements and influences.

From 1943 to 1946 McCaw served as an official war artist, travelling to Egypt, Italy and France. Having settled in Hout Bay, Cape Town upon completion of his studies, McCaw regularly returned to the Middle East and Europe, especially Italy, until his death in 1978.

As with many of the artists who settled in the Cape, McCaw’s work typically depicted Cape harbour scenes with fishing boats, the Malay Quarter, and lush Boland landscapes. This characteristic style and predominating subject matter has come to be described as ‘Cape Impressionist’.

McCaw drew inspiration from the work of the French Post-Impressionist, Paul Cézanne, whose works usually displaying a light paint application with sensitive, linear brushstrokes suggesting detail. McCaw’s technique was based on these Impressionist principles as advocated by Cézanne, which required the modelling of form to be replaced by colour modulation.

McCaw exhibited widely both locally and abroad, and his technique and subject matter resonated well with the local audience. Despite a marked decline in viewership during the fifties due to his erratic working habits, and subsequently long periods of unproductivity, McCaw continues to command a popular market, with paintings which appeal to the ordinary South African viewer.

  • Studies

    1930 – 1933 Witwatersrand Technical Art School, under Sydney Carter and Emily Fern.

    1935 Central School of Art and Heatherleys School of Art, London.

  • Exhibitions

    1925 Participated in group exhibitions in South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium, Zimbabwe, East Africa, Denmark and South America.

    1934 First solo exhibition, Cape Town.

    1935 Exhibited with the London Group and Royal Watercolour Society, London

    1938 – 53 New Group exhibitions.

    1941 – 45 South African War Art exhibitions.

    1948 Exhibition of South African Art, Tate Gallery, London.

    1953 Rhodes Centenary Exhibition, Bulawayo.

    1930 Second Quadrennial exhibition of South African Art.

    1975 Prestige Exhibition, William Humphrey’s Art gallery, Kimberley.

    1980 Retrospective Exhibition, Lister Galleries, Johannesburg.

    1982-83 SA National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg.

    Retrospective Exhibition, on loan to SA National Gallery, Cape Town,

    University of Pretoria,

    King George VI Art Gallery (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum), Port Elizabeth.

    1985 Retrospective Exhibition, Durban Art Gallery.

  • Collections
    • Iziko South African national Gallery, Cape Town
    • Johannesburg Art Gallery
    • Durban Art Gallery
    • William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley
    • Ann Bryant Gallery, East London
    • AC White Gallery, Bloemfontein
    • Queenstown Art Gallery
    • South African National War Museum, Johannesburg
    • Julius Gordon Africana Centre, Riversdale
    • King George VI Art Gallery (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum)
    • National Museum, Bloemfontein
    • South African Cultural history Museum, Cape Town
    • University of Cape Town
    • University of the Orange Free State
  • Awards

    1935 Won first prize, South African Railway Poster Competition

    1938 Founder member of the New Group

  • Bibliography

    Alexander, L. and Cohen, E, 150 South African Paintings – Past and Present, Cape Town: Struikhof.

    Berman, E. 1983. Art & Artists of South Africa. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers.

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