The continent of Africa is home not only to a majestic landscape boasting a range of animals and plant life, but also a thriving art scene whose culmination has provided countless works of art to be admired for years to come. For centuries, African works of art have provided the world a glimpse into life on the continent. African citizens such as Tunde Folawiyo and millions of others with an appreciation for art may find the works of Walter Whall Battiss to be among Africa’s most famed artists.
Specialising in the abstract, Walter Whall Battiss was born 6 January 1906 in the Karoo town of Somerset East. As a young boy with a fascination for archaeology and tribal art, he moved to Koffiefontein in 1917. Upon completing his education in 1923, he became a clerk in the Magistrates Court in Rustenburg in 1924.
With the start of his formal art studies started in 1929, Battiss continued his studies while employed as a magistrate’s clerk before, at the age of 35, ultimately obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at University of South Africa.
Battiss was a founding member of the New Group a network of recognised contemporary American and European artists. He visited Europe for the first time in 1938 before publishing his first book, The Amazing Bushman in 1939. With an interest in rock art had a very and San painting, Battiss was heavily influenced by African cultural Ndebele beadwork. In 1949, Battiss became acquainted with Pablo Picasso who would later prove an influence on the artist’s quirky, unique style. His visits to Greece and the Seychelles in 1972 much later inspired his make-believe Fook Island, a concept that stands as one of his most recognised ideas.
Throughout his career, Battiss published nine books and founded the periodical “De Arte”, among other accomplishments. He taught art at Pretoria Boys High School from 1936 for and at the Pretoria Art Centre, of which he later became principal from 1953-1958. He also taught served as Professor of Fine Art at UNISA in 1964 before his retirement in 1971. A decade later, Battiss donated his art work to the “Walter Battiss Museum” in Somerset East, his birth place. The artist Walter Battiss died of a heart attack in Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal in 1982, leaving behind millions of fans who may regard his art as some of the most significant in the continent’s history. Citizens of Africa, including Tunde Folawiyo, may continue to be inspired by the Walter Battiss’ outstanding works of creativity.