Maria Magdalena (Maggie) Laubser

(1886 – 1973)

Maria Magdalena (Maggie) Laubser was born in the Malmesbury district, Cape Town, in 1886. She attended Bloemhof Seminary in Stellenbosch until the age of 15. She later attended singing lessons in Cape Town, where she became involved with a circle of artists and musicians. She shortly changed from singing to painting classes and became a member of the SA Society of Artists in 1907. She had her own studio in Cape Town until 1912 but, unable to directly earn a living through painting, she returned to the farm of her childhood in the Transvaal and took a position as governess on a farm near Ermelo.

She then met JHA Blawé, a successful businessman, who became her patron and convinced her parents to permit her to study in Europe. Laubser arrived in Laren, Holland in 1913, a village which was a magnet for artists from The US, The Hague School, England and France. This exposure to a wide variety of artistsinspired and awakened Laubser to new artistic possibilities, especially the exciting modern movements in the art world.

At the outbreak of the First World War Laubser moved to London and attended classes at the Slade School of Art from 1914 to 1919. The classes were too unadventurous for Laubser’s taste, who then started only attending the drawing classes. Laubser traveled around the Lake District in England and Scotland during this period, on her own painting trips.

In 1919 Laubser moved to Belgiumwhere she was exposed to Van Gogh’s work. She persisted with her outdoor painting, focusing on the scenic wheat fields in the area. Laubser remained in Europe for some time, living in Northern Italy where she painted prolifically for nearly a year. She then moved to Berlin from 1922 to 1924 where she had contact with Irma Stern and other German Expressionists. Laubser intensified the forms and brightened the colours in her work, giving her work an expressive symbolic character. She then painted a series of portraits of an authentic Expressionistic style.

Laubser returned permanently to South Africa in 1924 and had her first solo exhibition at the Argus Gallery in Cape Town, which was an economic and significant catastrophe. The conservative attitude of the Cape did not receive her bold, confrontational forms and unusual expressionistic use of colour warmly. Laubser, however, persisted with her exceptional expressionist approach to art and life itself. Though Laubser traveled seldom thereafter, she took painting trips round South Africa, producing portraits and landscapes. Laubser painted until her death at her home in 1973.

Laubser’s paintings have often been criticized for being naïve and childlike, but her history is an indication of her honesty and ambitiousness as an artist. Through her persistence in her personal vision and beliefs, she triumphed over the hardship of years of rejection as an internationally renowned South African master that is still celebrated today.

1886

Born 14 April on the farmBloublommetjieskloof,in the Malmesbury District

1893

Attended farm school, Rocklands – had private piano tuition

1897

Attended Bloemhof Seminary, Stellenbosch – was taught art by conventional methods

1901

Education interrupted to give her brothers the opportunity to study

Took singing lessons while living on the farm

Introduced to Professor Edward Roworth – had painting lessons for two months with Professor Roworth (painted from postcards)

1907

Elected member of the South African Society of Artists

1912

Visited family in Pretoria

Employed as governess in the Ermelo district – taught art and needlework

While on vacation in Durban met Jan Hendrik Arnold Balwe who offered to finance overseas study for her and her sister

1913

Travelled with Hannag to the Netherlands to study art and music

Lived in Laren – met artists, poets and writers

1915

Returned to South Africa briefly and visited her parents on the farmOortmanspost

Returned to London to resume her studies at the Slade School of Art

Influenced by friendship with painter Arnold Balwe (son of J. H. A. Balwe)

1919

Left England for Antwerp

Post-World War I travelled with the Balwes to Italy – en route saw work by the German Expressionists

1920

Lived and painted near Lake Garda and San Vigilio, Italy

Paid short visit to South Africa

1921

Travels to Bad Kissingen with Arnold Balwe and the ailing J. H. A. Balwe

Death of J. H. A. Balwe (April/May)

Travels to Venice, Milan and through the continent to England

Returned to South Africa (September)

1922

Returns to Europe and stays in Berlin

Visits Ahrenshoop on the Baltic Sea in the company of Irma Stern

Is introduced to Professor Jachels, a celebrated portrait-painter and teacher

Stimulated and influence by work of the Expressionists

1924

Attends concerts and exhibitions in Berlin

Becomes acquainted with expressionist painters living in Berlin

Returns to South Africa and takes up residence on the farmOortmanspost

1925

Work received with skepticism and poor critiques

Met D. C. Boonzaier and Moses Kottler

1926 – 1928

Visits and paints in various places along the coast of the Western Cape

1929

Introduced by Mieke Siegers to Prof. and Mrs Serton who encouraged her to hold and exhibition in September

Official recognition from the Union Government who purchased work for their overseas embassies

1931

First exhibition in the Transvaal

Took painting trips throughout South Africa

1933

Elected as member of the South African Academy of Arts and Science

1935

Travels throughout South Africa with an extended stay in the Free State

1936

Her father dies on 3 May

Her mother dies on 20 November

1942

Moves to Rusoord, Strand, Cape

1944

Publication of the bookMaggie Laubserby Johannes Meintjes

1946

Visits the Free State, Natal and Transvaal

1947

Settles at ‘Altyd Lig’, Strand, Cape

1953

Visits Natal

1957

Experimented with abstract forms

1973

Died at her home in Strand, Cape, on May 1

1914

Studied at Slade School of Art, London

Refused to paint while studying in order to preserve individuality, modeled with clay

1915

Returned to the Slade School of Art, London

1922

Painted and studied under Professor Jachels, Germany

1909

Group exhibition,Second Annual Exhibition of the Fine Art Association,Cape Town

1922

Group exhibition,Twenty-First Annual Exhibition of the South African Society of Artists,Cape Town

1924

Solo exhibition, Ferdinand Postma Biblioteek, Potchefstoom

1925

Solo exhibition, Argus Gallery, Cape Town

1929

Group exhibition, Inaugural Exhibition of Die Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniging, Bloemfontein

Exhibition at Stellenbosch

1931

Solo exhibition, MacFadyen Hall, Pretoria

Solo exhibition, Martin Melck House, Cape Town

1932

Group exhibition,First Annual Exhibition of South African Art,South African National Gallery, Cape Town

1933

Group exhibition,Second Annual Exhibition of South African Art,South African National Gallery, Cape Town

1936

Group exhibition,Fifth Annual Exhibition of South African Art,South African National Gallery, Cape Town

Group exhibition,The Empire Exhibition,Johannesburg

1937

Group exhibition,Art from the Commonwealth,Royal Institute Galleries, London

1938

Joint exhibition with Rene Graetz, Cecil Higgs and Lippy Lipshitz

Group exhibition,Orange Free State Society for Arts and Crafts Exhibition,Bloemfontein

1942

Solo exhibition, Argus Gallery, Cape Town

1943

Group exhibition,Fifth Annual ‘New Group’ Exhibition,Argus Gallery, Cape Town

1944

Group exhibition,‘New Group’ Spring Exhibition,Argus Gallery, Cape Town

1945

Group exhibition,‘New Group’ Spring Exhibition,Argus Gallery, Cape Town

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

Solo exhibition, Constantia Gallery, Johannesburg

1947

Group exhibition, ‘New Group’ Exhibition,Argus Gallery, Cape Town

1948

Group exhibition,Contemporary South African Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Tate Gallery, London

Solo exhibition, Derry’s Gallery, Cape Town (March)

Solo exhibition, Bloemfontein (June)

Group exhibition,South African Art,Fine Arts Association, Cape Town

1949

Solo exhibition, Argus Gallery, Cape Town

Solo exhibition, Constantia Gallery, Johannesburg

Group exhibition,‘New Group’ Exhibition,South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

1950

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

1951

Group exhibition,‘New Group’ Exhibition,South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

1952

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town (April)

Solo exhibition, Pretoria (September)

Group exhibition,Venice Biennale XXVI

Group exhibition,Van Riebeek Festival Exhibition of Contemporary South African Art,South African National Gallery, Cape Town

1953

Solo exhibition, Whippman Gallery, Johannesburg (October)

Group exhibition,Central Rhodes Centenary Festival Exhibition: Three Centuries of South African Art,Bulawayo

1954

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town (May)

Group exhibition,Venice Biennale XXVII

1955

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town (May)

Solo exhibition, Technical College, Pretoria

Group exhibition,Historical Exhibition of South African Art,Pretoria Centenary, Pretoria

1956

First Quadrennial Exhibition of South African Art, South African National Gallery, Cape Town

1957

Solo exhibition, Argus Gallery, Cape Town

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

1958

Group exhibition,Academy for Arts and Sciences Festival Exhibition, Stellenbosch

1959

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Art Gallery, Cape Town (April)

Solo exhibition, Pretoria (September)

Group exhibition,Eight Contemporary South African Painters,Gemeentelijke Museum, Den Haag, Netherlands

Group exhibition,Still Life and Flowers by some Women Artists of the Cape Peninsula,South African National Gallery, Cape Town

1960

Second Quadrennial Exhibition of South African Art,South African National Gallery, Cape Town

Group exhibition,Looking at Landscape – South African Landscape Painting 1910- 1960,Union Festival, South African National Gallery, Cape Town

1961

Solo exhibition, Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

1963

Maggie Laubser Retrospective Exhibition,Egon Guenther Gallery, Johannesburg

1964

Group exhibition,South African Masters Exhibition,South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

Third Quadrennial Exhibition of South African Art,South African National Gallery, Cape Town

1965

Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

Retrospective Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town

Solo exhibition, Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg

1966

Group exhibition,South African Art of the Twentieth Century,Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation, University of Stellenbosch

Group exhibition,Annual Exhibition of the Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts

1967

Group exhibition,Ten Best South African Women Artists,Adler-Fielding Galleries, Johannesburg

Group exhibition,Cape Art ’67,South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

1968

Group exhibition,Festival of the Soil,Silberberg Gallery, Cape Town

1969

Retrospective Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, the Pretoria Art Museum and the Johannesburg Art Gallery

1975

Prestige Exhibition, Rand Afrikaans University

1980

Prestige Exhibition, University of Stellenbosch

1986

Centenary Exhibition, Silberberg Gallery, Tulbagh, Cape Province

1987-88

Early Works from the Silberberg Collection,South African National Gallery

2012

Retrospective Exhibition,Altyd Lig,Sasol Art Museum, Stellenbosch

Public Collections – South Africa:

  • Sandton Municipal Collection
  • SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns
  • Rembrandt Art Foundation, Stellenbosch

Galleries & Museums – South Africa:

  • Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley
  • Hester Rupert Art Museum, Graaff-Reinet
  • National Museum, Bloemfontein
  • Durban Art Gallery, Durban
  • Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • Julius Gordon Africana Centre, Riversdale
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth
  • Potchefstroom Museum, Potchefstroom

University Collections – South Africa:

  • University of the Free State
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • University of Johannesburg
  • University of South Africa

1946

Awarded the Medal of Honour by the South African Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns

1947

Received the Oscar Award for painting from theDie Vanderlandnewspaper

1959

Elected honorary member of the South African Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns

1968

Awarded Medal of Honour by the South African Association of the Arts for the Cape Region

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