Tag Archives: Africa’s most famed artists

Famed African Artists: Irma Stern

Internationally recognised for her creative works, Irma Stern remains amongst Africa’s most revered painters. Her long career witnessed many successes, including a variety of solo exhibitions met with critical acclaim. tunde folawiyoYears after her passing, her paintings are amongst the most sought-after on the art market today. Tunde Folawiyo and other collectors of African art may regard her works as some of the most significant in the history of the genre.

Born in the small town of Schweitzer-Renecke, Stern was born to a German-Jewish mother and father. She and her brother Rudi, travelled to Cape Town with their mother after their father was held back due to South Africa’s war. After the end of the war, they returned, but this constant travel would later prove a great influence on Stern’s creative works.

Stern began studying art at Germany’s Weimar Academy during 1913, then picked up instruction from a variety of resources including that of Max Pechstein during 1917. Stern was widely associated with other German Expressionist artists of the period. Her first art exhibition was held in Berlin during 1919. A year later, she returned to the city of Cape Town with family, the very place she was initially dismissed for her artistry before her fame began to spread during the late 1930s.

Stern’s career saw her travel throughout much of Europe and South Africa, including Zanzibar and other regions such as the Congo. Her paintings were highly influenced by this adventurous travel, providing her quite the collection of personal artifacts. Whilst she refused to travel to Germany during the war, she spent much time travelling extensively through Africa. Two of her illustrated journals were published during this time with Congo in 1943 and Zanzibar during 1948.

Nearly one hundred moving solo exhibitions highlight Stern’s outstanding artistic career, with many held in Africa and other parts of Europe including France, Italy, Germany and England. Whilst her work was met with negative reviews during early exhibitions of the 1920s, she changed public opinion to become one of those most talented painters of her generation. A museum in her name was established during 1971, occupying the home she resided in for nearly four decades. Since her passing, her works have sold for millions at auction, breaking records throughout South Africa. Tunde Folawiyo and others with an appreciation for African art may continue to be inspired by the famed works of Irma Stern. Information about Tunde Folawiyo interest in art and other subjects may be found on his Twitter page.


African Artists: Marlene Dumas

South African artist Marlene Dumas is widely regarded amongst the African continent’s most beloved painters. Whilst her works have formed from various media throughout her career, Dumas is perhaps best known for her use of human figures to portray her point tunde folawiyoof view on contemporary issues such as race and sexuality. Her works of art have been displayed around the globe, inspiring millions of fans of art enthusiasts with her moving creations. Tunde Folawiyo and other collectors of African art may regard the works of Marlene Dumas to be amongst the most significant of the era.

Born in 1953 in the South African city of Cape Town, Marlene Dumas studied painting at Michaelis School of Fine Art in the early part of the 1970s. During this decade, the artist found herself fascinated by the photos of famed photographer Diana Arbus, who proved to be a great inspiration in Dumas’s representations of the human form. The late 1970s saw Dumas travel to Amsterdam to attend the distinguished institute de Ateliers. It was during these years that Dumas formed her own unique art style, combining media such as photographs, drawings and texts to create her works. In the years following, the artist began portraying figures and heads using photographs from the archives of a variety of personal snapshots, many torn from newspapers and magazines.

The artist’s first show of entirely paintings was comprised of nine portraits and took place at a gallery in Amsterdam during 1985. A decade later, she was chosen to represent the Netherlands at Venice’s 46th Biennale. Her first solo exhibition premiered at New Museum during 2002. During June of 2008, Dumas’s career received a significant boost in fanfare with a major exhibition at Los Angeles’s foremost contemporary art museum. The retrospective, “Measuring Your Own Grave” was widely received, later moving to New York’s Museum of Modern Art. That same year, galleries in Cape Town and Johannesburg showcased her solo exhibitions, marking a first for her homeland. Tate Modern museum, Beyeler Foundation and Stedelijk Museum are currently organising a retrospective of Dumas’s works, set to premiere in Amsterdam during September of 2014. Tunde Folawiyo and others with an appreciation for African art regard the works of Dumas as groundbreaking. Her paintings will continue to delight revelers in galleries and museums all over the globe for centuries to come.

A bio of the Nigerian artist Yusuf Grillo

Tunde FolawiyoYusuf Grillo is one of Nigeria’s most renowned painters; he is someone that most art lovers, including Tunde Folawiyo, will have heard of. He is famed for the inventiveness of his work, as well as his preference for the colour blue, which features heavily in almost all of his paintings. Grillo sources his inspiration from the actions and behaviour of humankind, but is particularly intrigued by Yoruba culture, and much of his artwork tends to merge western and Yoruba art techniques.

Raised in Lagos, Grillo received both a Fine Arts diploma, and a postgraduate education diploma from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology. In 1966, he moved to England to attend Cambridge University, after which he spent several years travelling around the USA and Germany. He eventually returned home, after he was appointed as the Head of Yaba College’s Department of Art and Printing. He retained this role for over 25 years, during which time he continued to paint, exhibit, and serve as the president of the SNA (Society of Nigerian Artists).

Although he has never been the most prolific of painters, the quality of the work which he has produced over the course of his career has led to Grillo being named as one of the most important artists in Nigeria. Grillo himself has acknowledged that it can often take him several months, or in some cases, even several years, to complete a painting. With this being said, he has, over the past few decades, produced a few hundred pieces of art, including not only portraits, but also statues and monuments.

Those who are familiar with his work, such as Tunde Folawiyo, may know that Grillo has expressed an aversion to photo-realism; rather than aiming for lifelike creations, he instead prefers to elongate and stylise the figures. This technique, which produces graceful, elegant human-like forms, makes his work instantly recognisable. His choice of colour tones and his compositional decisions have been praised by many, including Kunle Filani, a well-known art critic. In an essay about this artist, Filani noted that whilst many have attempted to mimic Grillo’s style in their own work, none have managed to achieve the same skilful combination of complimentary hues and perfect spatial balance.

For those highly interested in the work of many other African artists, find out more at the Tunde Folawiyo African art blog.

The career of the painter Aina Onabolu

Tunde Folawiyo Being from Nigeria, Tunde Folawiyo has no doubt heard of Aina Onabolu. Onabolu was a Nigerian painter and teacher who was famed not only for his own contributions to the art world, but also for the role that he played in integrating the arts into Nigeria’s secondary school curriculum. Onabolu also helped to get Kenneth C. Murray into Nigeria for the purposes of teaching the subject, an action which had a profound effect on the quality of art made in Nigeria throughout the early 20th century.

In his own work, he favoured true-to-life drawing over abstract, and during his early career, made a name for himself through creating portraits. Heavily influenced by his missionary education, he rejected traditional Nigerian art techniques in favour of Western European methods. This was unusual, as at this point in time, many of Onabolu’s contemporaries – including Picasso – were developing fascination with the power and simplicity of West African art.

Onabolu was born in 1882, in an area called Ijebu Ode, and began to paint during his early teens. He drew inspiration from many sources, but was particularly entranced by the Western art that he was exposed to via missionary religious books and Nigerian magazines. Although he remained passionate about painting, he was unable to study it at Caxton House School, and thus ended up working as a marine clerk after completing his secondary school education. However, his love for art did not wane during this time, and he continued to spend his spare time learning about European painting techniques.

Art lovers like Tunde Folawiyo may know that at the age of 38, Onabolu left his homeland, and spent several years living in France and England. Whilst in these countries, he finally had the opportunity to take courses in art, at Academie Julian in Paris and St. Johns Wood School in London. He excelled in his studies, and finished his courses with a teacher’s certificate and a diploma in fine arts. He then returned to Nigeria, and focused his efforts on integrating art into the school system.

In addition to this, he continued to create and exhibit his own work, and serve as a teacher at CMS Grammar School, and King’s College in Lagos. His teaching focused primarily on watercolour techniques, anatomical proportions, and the science of perspective. Onabolu passed away in 1963, at the age of 81.


A brief biography of the artist Prince Twins Seven-Seven

Tunde FolawiyoThose with an interest in African art, like Tunde Folawiyo, are probably familiar with the work of Prince Twins Seven-Seven (born Olaniyi Osuntoki). Prince was a Nigerian artist, who began his career in the early sixties. Over the years, he earned a reputation as the greatest representative of a school of painting known as Oshogbo. He was passionate about Yoruba culture, a fact which was reflected in the subject of his artwork.

Born in 1944, Prince’s spent his childhood and teens focusing on music and dancing. It was only as he entered his twenties that he began to develop a love for art. This came about after he travelled to Oshogbo and joined a school which was being run by a German linguist called Ulli Beier. It was here that Prince became interested in working with ink and pen, on paper and plywood.

Over the next 12 months, Prince exhibited his work around Nigeria, the USA and Czechoslovakia. He then went on to hold shows in Australia, Japan, Argentina, Cuba, Canada, Ghana and Finland. During the late eighties, after several years of travelling, he decided to move to the USA. This was one of the most difficult periods of his life, during which he created very little art, and experienced serious financial difficulties.

However, art lovers such as Tunde Folawiyo may recall that Prince made a comeback during the nineties, after a friend allowed him to use a spare room of his as an art studio. This eventually resulted in Prince exhibiting once again, and in 2000, his work was featured in the African Art wing of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. That same year, his pieces were also included in a show held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

Five years later, UNESCO named Prince as the 2005 Artist for Peace, in recognition of his contribution to the understanding of African culture. He received his award from Koichiro Matsuura, the Director of UNESCO, at a special ceremony which was attended by the President of Nigeria. Prince decided to move back to Nigeria in 2008; however, he did return to the USA one final time, in order to hold an exhibition during the summer of 2010. He passed away the following year, on the 16th of June.

Tunde Folawiyo | The work of the artist Gavin Jantjes

Gavin Jantjes is a South African artist. Born in Cape Town in 1948, Jantjes demonstrated an interest in art from a young age; as a result, he spent several years of his childhood studying at the Children’s Art Centre. He received his undergraduate degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1969, after which he moved to Germany for two years, in order to complete his masters at the

As an art fanatic, Tunde Folawiyo may know that Jantjes became a very vocal opponent of the apartheid regime during the seventies. His art reflected his views on this subject; one of his most notable pieces from this decade was the ‘South African Colouring Book’, which consisted of 11 screen prints, each of which is filled with text, drawings, news reports and photographs. Each of these sheets features a series of six colours, along with an image of a paint box, next to which are instructions for completing the picture.

The piece is designed much like a child’s colouring book, and serves as acerbic allusion to the discrimination and oppression imposed on the people of South Africa by the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, which was in power at this time. The graphic, cartoon-like quality of the images, coupled with the motif of ‘paint by numbers’ has led to many comparing it to the work of Andy Warhol.

Tunde FolawiyoIn addition to this type of art, Jantjes has also created many oil paintings; those which he made during the nineties indicate an interest in archaic forms of art, with many bearing a strong resemblance to cave drawings. One untitled piece made in 1990 features three connected figures, whose body parts are both human and animal. The painting appears to portray the carrying out of an ancient cultural ritual, and has been praised by experts and art lovers alike for its stark, powerful imagery.

In the eighties, Jantjes decided to move to Britain; he was active within its art scene, spending most of his time lecturing at art schools, serving on several galleries’ advisory boards, and curating exhibitions.  In addition, he also had a number of solo and group exhibitions, not only in Britain, but also in the US, Cuba and South Africa. Those with an interest in art, like Tunde Folawiyo, may be aware that during the nineties, Jantjes was a curator at the Serpentine Gallery, taught at the Chelsea College of Art & Design, and served as an advisor at the Tate. For the past 16 years, he has worked as the Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter’s artistic director.

Tunde Folawiyo | The career of the Nigerian artist Benedict Enwonwu

Benedict Enwonwu was a sculptor and painter, who many consider to be one of the pioneers of modernism in Africa. Art fanatics like Tunde Folawiyo might know that Enwonwu’s work also played a key role in increasing international awareness of African Tunde Folawiyoart in general. The majority of his most famous paintings and sculptures can be seen in the Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian Art, as well as in the Lagos National Gallery of Modern Art.

Born on the 14th of July, 1921, Enwonwu was raised in the Nigerian city of Onitsha. His mother worked as a cloth trader, whilst his father was an employee of the Royal Nigeria Company. He too was also passionate about art, and created sculptures in his spare time.

Enwonwu decided to follow a creative path, studying art at the Government Colleges in Umuahia and Ibadan, where he was mentored by Kenneth C. Murray. He had his first art show at the age of 17, at the Glasgow Empire Exhibition, and six years later, moved to London, in order to study at Goldsmiths College. He then decided to continue his studies in Oxford; first at Ruskin College, and then at the Slade School of Fine Arts. After graduating, he moved to the US, where he attended Louisiana State University, and the University of California, taking classes in ethnography and anthropology.

From 1959 until 1968, Enwonwu worked as an artistic supervisor in Nigeria; after leaving this position to focus on his art, he began to hold exhibitions across the US and Europe. Following three years of painting and exhibiting, he took up a temporary role at Howard University, as a Visiting Professor of African Studies. Shortly after this, the University of Ife in Nigeria offered him the job of Professor of Fine Arts, which he accepted.

In 1975, he decided to retire from teaching; however, he continued to create art, and over the years, was commissioned to create several portraits of well-known public figures in Nigeria. In addition, he also illustrated a book called The Brave African Huntress by Amos Tutuola. As a lover of African art, Tunde Folawiyo may be aware that throughout his career, Enwonwu maintained close ties to the city of London; he kept a studio in the capital, and was a member of the Royal Academy of the Arts, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute.