Museum Notes: Rupert Gallery
Stellenbosch • South Africa
In researching my trip to the Cape Winelands, the Rupert Museum came up multiple times as a world class art gallery. So it became one of my must-see stops on my way out of Stellenbosch heading back towards Cape Town.
Commissioned in 2013, the museum houses over 350 pieces of art from the private collection of Anton and Huberte Rupert. In the 1940’s, the Rupert’s began acquiring contemporary South African art. The collection forms the backbone of the museum with other rotating exhibits.
But who were the Rupert’s? My lack of knowledge of South Africa was evident and was quickly updated from a local.
The Rupert Family today is one of the wealthiest families in South Africa (Top 3) and also the world, regularly on the Forbes Top 500 list. More intriguing to me was how?
The family fortune is thanks to Anton Rupert. Born 1916, Anton dropped out of med school due to lack of funds and started a tobacco company in the 1940’s with £10.
Over the years he transitioned his businesses into luxury goods and other ventures. His companies today own Cartier, MontBlanc and other recognizable luxury brands. The family are also investors in several Cape Winelands properties including La Motte.
At the time of his death in 2006, his assets were estimated at $1.7 billion.
With his wealth, Rupert and his family has funded both environmental and art initiatives in South Africa. On the environmental front, Rupert was a founding member of both the World Wildlife Fund and also South Africa’s Peace Parks Foundation.
From £10 to $1.7 billion over a 60 year career… that’s a story I would love to know more about, but not much exists out on the interwebs.
So for now, I settled for a stroll through his private art collection to find my five favorite finds at The Rupert Museum.
The Johannesburg Station Panels
Rail systems were created in South Africa beginning in the 1860’s across various territories. Upon the merger of four provinces to establish the modern state of South Africa in 1910, the railway lines across the country were also merged.
South African Railways and Harbours (SAR & H) was the government agency responsible for the country’s rail system and to some extent the advancement of tourism and the use of these railways.
In 1926, building work on a new Johannesburg railway station commenced. A commission was requested for artist JH Pierneef to create 28 panels to hang in the railway station highlighting Africa’s landscape.
Unveiled in 1933, 1000’s of people viewed these masterpieces in the rail station, various museums and today they are in the Rupert Museum
This collection will set you on a quest to discover and visit the natural beauty of South Africa captured by this artist.
by JH Pierneef (1929-1932)
In the 1970’s, Rupert’s company sponsored Richard Townley Johnson to continue his travels and discovery of rock art. The collection contains his reproductions that not only documents the rock art but also the rock and rock textures.
The collection holds 1,630 paintings covering rock art sites across the Cape provinces, Drakensberg, Orange Free State, Erongo in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Lions and Elephants ruled the landscape 1000’s of years ago as well. Intriguing to see how people documented their triumphs and troubles.
by Richard Townley Johnson
20th Century South African Artists
The Faces and Figures Collection is a permanent part of the Rupert Museum featuring artists who contributed to the South African Modern Art genre.
Artists include: Gerard Bhengu (1910-1990), Irma Stern (1894-1966), Anton van Wouw (1862-1945), George Pemba (1912-2001), Maggie Laubser (1886-1973), Gerard Sekoto (1913-1993) and Moses Kottler (1896-1977)
A beautiful view into the faces, emotions, and artistry of South Africa.
Panorama of Cape Town
Josephus Jones was a mapmaker, building planner and artist in Cape Town in the 18th century.
He joined the Dutch military corps at the Cape of Good Hope in 1784 and made cartographic explorations along the South African coast creating both maps of the area and also building plans for several houses and gardens.
During this time the British and the Dutch were battling over the area and he worked for both governments due to his skill. His maps today are part of the Van de Graaff Collection in the Topographical Institute in Delft, Netherlands and highly regarded for quality and advanced cartographic technique for the time.
The panorama is one of his most well known works of art consisting of six pen and watercolour drawings depicting a 360 degree view of Cape Town.
I love looking at old maps to see how things have changed, how they stay the same and how they interpreted different things or found important with the markings in these drawings.
by Josephus Jonas (1808)
Judgement of Parys
Diane Victor is a contemporary South African artist known for her drawings and prints that explore social injustice, war, and corruption.
The art is made using charcoal and candle smoke on white paper. Exceedingly fragile and easily damaged, disintegrating with physical contact as the carbon soot is dislodged from the paper they play into her social commentary on the subjects she represents.
The subject in this painting is the Judgment of Parys. A Greek fable where Paris of Troy is given the job of deciding who is the fairest of the three Greek goddesses – Hera, Aphrodite and Athena.
He chooses Aphrodite after she promises him the hand of Helen of Sparta.
Unfortunately, Helen is the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, so when Paris makes off with his prize, the Trojan War quickly follows after.
By Diane Victor (1988)
On loan from the Iziko South African National Gallery Collection.
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