Maurice van Essche
Paintings, drawings, graphics
Maurice van Essche in 1968 (img. South African Panorama, Pretoria, Sept. 1971)
(please click on image for original view!)
Maurice Charles Louis Corneille van Essche was born on 4th October, 1906, in Antwerp, Belgium, the seventh of eleven children, of whom only eight survived infancy. The family was French-speaking despite its Flemish roots; his mother's maiden name was De Ridder.
In 1911, the family moved to Bruxelles where Maurice was educated. In 1924 he studied art at the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts under James Ensor and Prof. Willem van den Bruel but halted his studies in 1925 for lack of funding, first working in a stained glass studio to earn a living, then in 1926 he worked as wallpaper designer. He was also a freelance cartoonist while painting all the while.
In 1930 Maurice became a member of the group 'La Jeune Peinture Belge'; he won the silver medal at the International Exhibition, Antwerp.
In 1933 Maurice van Essche married Lucette (Lucie) Josz (*1908); they left for South of France where he studied briefly under Henri Matisse in France having met him by chance in an artist's supply shop in Cagnes on the Riviera that year.
Thereafter he continued to paint and study full-time thanks to the sponsorship of his elder brother, Joseph Charles, and a group of friends.
His break came in July 1939 when he won a scholarship in a competition organized by the Belgian Government, commissioning him to undertake a painting expedition to the Belgian Congo. His travels and experiences there influenced him profoundly, and the visions and emotions of that period echoed through his work for the rest of his life.
In 1940 his wife Lucette and son Ludovic (*1935) fled German occupation of Belgium and joined him in the Congo. Lucette could not cope with tropical conditions and they moved to the relatively milder climate of the South African Cape. From late 1940 they stayed temporarily in Cape Town.
Early days in South Africa were difficult, and on occasion Maurice van Essche traded paintings and drawings for food and other essentials. But he soon became a prominent member of the South African art community. His first solo shows in South Africa were in 1941 in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
From 1943 to 1945, Maurice van Essche taught at the Johannesburg Art School (Wits Technical Art School); he became a member of the New Group in 1946 and founded the Continental School of Art, Cape Town, leaving in 1951 to become a lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in 1952.
In 1948 Foundation member of the International Art Club of South Africa; exhibited with fellow members in Turin, later elected Chairman.
1951 Awarded the title of Chevalier de Leopold II by King Baudouin of Belgium
1958 Appointed Commissioner for South Africa at the Venice Biennale
1962 Appointed Professor of Fine Art, Michaelis School, University of Cape Town
1964 National Chairman of the Fine Art Committee, South African Association of Arts
1965 Appointed Dean of Faculty of Fine Art and Architecture, University of Cape Town
1966 Received Gold Medal Award of Honour for Painting by the “Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns”
Maurice van Essche retired from academia in 1971, but continued to paint prolifically, despite poor health, including several heart attacks.
Letter to staff and colleagues at Michaelis School of Fine Arts, Cape Town, dated 4th November, 1971 (© Archives, Michaelis School of Fine Arts, Cape Town) - click on image for better view!
He travelled in Europe and eventually settled at Châlet "Bois Gontier" in Marin-Sussinges near Thonon-les-Bains in France, at his wife's behest. His health continued to deteriorate, and he could not travel to attend his own retrospective exhibition in Cape Town in 1974.
He missed Africa terribly, painting African scenes while searching in vain for local inspiration. His new themes included hippies and musicians, but he destroyed much of this work. His European landscapes from this period are dark and depressed, in stark contrast to the vibrant African scenes that flowed nonetheless. His oils continued to sell well in South Africa, and his reputation grew. He succumbed to a heart attack on 12th June 1977 following a fall and poor medical care.
Selected Solo and Group Shows
Please click on image for better view (PDF)
Additional Exhibitions not listed in Maurice van Essche Retrospective Exhibition 1974-1975 catalogue above, including clarifications
1927 Galerie La Cimaise, Bruxelles (1st solo show)
1929 Galerie Thémis, Bruxelles (solo show)
1950 Whippman’s Gallery, Johannesburg (29th September) (16 paintings) (opened by Mr A Shacksnovis)
1951 Whippman’s Gallery, Johannesburg (2nd October) (19 Paintings) (opened by Mr Armand Gazel, Ambassador of France in SA)
1953 Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles (solo show)
1954 South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (March) (solo show)
1954 Whippman’s Gallery, Johannesburg (20th September) (31 paintings)
1958 Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg (Univleis presents 50 South African Artists painting to a given theme) (20th May) – cat. 39 “The Lamb”
1959 Included in the National Arts Club International Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, New York NY
1959 Modern Homes Gallery, Cape Town (March) (solo show)
1960 Queens Hall Art Gallery, Johannesburg (Contemporary South African Artists) (August)
1961 Lidchi Gallery, Cape Town (November) (solo show)
1962 Munich – included in the Graphic Art Exhibition
1963 Lidchi Gallery, Cape Town (February) (solo show)
1963 Lidchi Art Gallery, Johannesburg/Cape Town (May) (26 paintings)
1963 Lidchi Gallery, Cape Town (drawings, watercolours and gouaches) (October) (solo show)
1964 Transvaal Academy Johannesburg (cat. 54)
1964 Adler Fielding Galleries, Johannesburg ("The Year's Findings") (December)
1965 Transvaal Academy Johannesburg (cat. 60)
1967 Gallery 101, Rand Central, Johannesburg (11th December) (paintings and drawings) – Solo show
1968 Durban Art Gallery, Durban (9th July) (39 Drawings) (with catalogue)
1969 Le Petit Palais, Geneva, Switzerland (28th November) (14 paintings) – Group Show of 10 artists
1970 Gallery 101, Rand Central, Johannesburg (20th April) (Recent paintings) - Solo show
1970 Gallery 101, Hyde Park, Johannesburg (18th July) (40 drawings and mixed media) – Solo show
1971 Gallery 101, Hyde Park, Johannesburg (21st February) (Paintings and mixed media) – Solo show
1971 Gallery 101, Hollard Street, Johannesburg – 10 Cape Artists (February)
1971 Gallery 101, Hollard Street, Johannesburg – Carl Buchner, Maurice van Essche, Alfred Krenz (14th Oct.)
1973 SAAA (Southern Tvl), Carlton Centre, Foyer Three Ships Restaurant, curated by G101 (22nd Jan) – group show
"The blue curtain", 1964 - oil - 91.5x61 cm
"Portrait of Joyce" by Maurice van Essche, an early painting
"Karroo", 1964 - oil - 61x91.5 cm
Selected Museum Collections
Maurice van Essche is represented in most museums in South Africa including:
South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Durban Art Gallery, Durban
Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg
Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein
Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria
South African National Gallery, Cape Town
William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley
Selected Corporate Collections
Rembrandt Art Collection, Stellenbosch
Schlesinger South African Art Collection at WAM, Johannesburg
Works sold on auction
Over the years, many important works have been offered by Bonhams, London, and leading auctioneers in South Africa
"Sleeping nude", 1968 - oil on board - 53x72 cm - first exhibited at Gallery 101, Johannesburg - on auction at Bonhams London - South African Sale Part II - 17th October, 2012 - Lot 373 (please click on image for better view!)
Selected Press Reference
Essor du Congo, Élisabethville - 22 janvier 1943 - "Dernière visite à James Ensor - en guise d'hommage" (M van Essche)
"Le Peintre Maurice Van Essche aux Beaux-Arts" (G-D Périer) (Bulletin de l'Union des femmes coloniales, Bruxelles) - avril 1948, p.15
"L'exposition du peintre Maurice Van Essche" (G-D Périer) (La Revue coloniale belge, Bruxelles) n°175 - 15 janvier 1953, p.63
News/Check, Johannesburg – 1962, 12th October - Vol 1 No 7 (ill.)
News/Check, Johannesburg – 1963, 24th May - Vol 1 No 23 (ill.)
Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg - 19th December, 1964 - "Water carrier" ill. in article "A painting that glows with warmth"
ARTLOOK 13, Johannesburg - 1967 Vol 2 No 1 (December) p. 2, ill.
ARTLOOK 15, Johannesburg - 1968 Vol 2 No 3 (February) p. 16, ill. (vide Artlook 18)
ARTLOOK 18, Johannesburg - 1968 Vol 2 No 6 (May) p. 18, ill.
ARTLOOK 26, Johannesburg - 1969 (January) ("Homage to Maurice van Essche" by Lippy Lipshitz) p. 10/11, ill.
ARTLOOK 27, Johannesburg - 1969 (February), p. 20, ill.
ARTLOOK 39, Johannesburg - 1970 (February), p. 21, ill.
ARTLOOK 54, Johannesburg - 1971 (May), p. 30, one work on Lidchi Gallery exhibition, ill.
« Les Africanistes peintres voyageurs, 1860-1960 » (Lynne Thornton) (ACR Editions) - ISBN 2-86770-045-0
“Van Essche” (Büchner) (Tafelberg Cape Town) (1967) (21 plates + text) (ed. 750, of which 200 are numbered and include an inserted lithograph „Seated Nude“ drawn directly on plate and individually signed by the artist)
“Maurice van Essche” 1974-1975 Retrospective Exhibition catalogue – SA National Gallery, Cape Town and Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria (with Watussi Group illustrated on cover)
OUR ART 2, Pretoria, 1961 (var. ill.)
"South African Art - Exhibition of Contemporary South African Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture" (SAAA Cape Town) cat. for 1948-1949 Tate London exhibition, p. 23, cat. 106/108
LANTERN, Pretoria (Foundation for Education, Science & Technology, Pretoria) - 1956 Jan/March - Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 267/270
"Tobias healing his father", pre-1955 ("The embrace") - oil on board - 67x34 cm (ill. in Lantern, 1956 Jan/March) in b/white)
"The First Quadriennale Exhibition of South African Art" - SA Association of Arts, Cape Town & Pretoria - 1957/57, cat. 62, ill.
"De Hedendaagse skilderkuns in Suid-Afrika" (van der Westhuysen) (Ons Erfdeel Vlaams, 1962, No. 3, pp. 36-49, ill.
"South African Artists 1900-1962" (Harold Jeppe) (Afrikaanse Pers Boekhandel), 1963, p. 103, col. ill. p. 104
"Coloured Boy", 1967 - oil (ill. p.24 - SA Panorama, Pretoria - Sept. 1971)
"Maurice van Essche" - South African Panorama, Pretoria - September, 1971 - article by Esmé Berman, pp. 22-25, var. ill.
"Art in South Africa - A short survey" ("Report from South Africa - July/August 1972") publ. by Embassy of South Africa, London, ill. pp. 11+16
"Art & Artists of South Africa" (Berman) (Balkema), 1983, p. 468-470 (5 b/white) , opp. 462 (2 col.) - ISBN 0-86961-144-5
"The Dictionary of South African Painters and Sculptors including Namibia" (Ogilvie) (Everard Read), 1988, pp. 687/688 - ISBN 0 620 12663 9
"Nuwe Groep - New Group 1938-1954" - travelling exhibition in 7 SA museums 1988 - 1989 (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Pretoria, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth), listed p. 19+53, cat. 53 - ISBN 0 620 123133
"Die Akademiekunsversameling" - Die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (1992) p. 28, ill. - ISBN 0 949976 50 4
"Painting in South Africa" (Berman) (Southern Book Publ.), 1993, col. plate 40+41, b/white ill. cat. 87, 88, 89 on pp. 135-139 - ISBN 1 86812 479 7
"Printmaking in a transforming South Africa" (Hobbs/Rankin) (David Philip Publ.), 1997, p. 136 - ISBN 0-86486-334-9
Exhibited at Biennale
Venice Biennale, 1952
Venice Biennale, 1954
Venice Biennale, 1956
Venice Biennale, 1958
São Paulo Biennale 1957 (3 paintings) cat. 1-3
São Paulo Biennale 1963 (Sept/Dec) (1 painting)
São Paulo Biennale 1965 (Sept/Nov) (10 paintings + 5 drawings) cat. 37-46 (1-5)
At least one print was published by E Schweickerdt, Pretoria (62x74 cm) and two by Gallery 101, Johannesburg, including "The Mealie Seller", in agreement with the artist.
http://lubumarts.africamuseum.be/bibliographie.pdf - (search PDF for "Essche" for various references in the former Belgian Congo)
Three generations of the van Essche family in Dieppe, 1966 - Maurice van Essche, Ludovic and Paul - image© from Paul van Essche's archive
For copyright permissions concerning all of Maurice van Essche's works please contact Paul van Essche, New York, on this link!
Warning - beware!
From correspondence between Maurice van Essche and his main dealer in Johannesburg in 1974 to 1976, held by the archives of The Haenggi Foundation Inc., Basel, it appears that there were many FAKES of the artist's paintings offered at that time by third parties in the country.
Updated 11th January, 2017
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