Skotnes, Cecil

East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 1926

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, 2009

1946: Studied under Heinrich Steiner in Florence and also at the Witwatersrand Technical College. 1947-1950: University of the Witwatersrand under Professor Heather Martienssen, Douglas Portway and Charles Argent.

1956: First solo exhibition, Johannesburg. 1968: Seven Present-day South African Artists, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon 1971: Republic Festival Exhibition, Cape Town. 1972: Retrospective exhibition, Pretoria Art Museum. 1988: The Neglected Tradition, Johannesburg Art Gallery. 1999: Retrospective exhibition, Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town (touring). 2001: The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, Munich, Berlin, Chicago and New York. 2004 – 2005: Joint exhibition with Edoardo Villa at Lanzerac, Stellenbosch.

1976: Medal of Honour awarded by the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. 1978: Gold, silver and bronze medals awarded at the Grahamstown Festival of the Arts for his services to South African art. 1996: Honorary doctorates from Rhodes University and the University of the Witwatersrand.

Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth; William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley; Durban Art Gallery; Royal Museum of Fine Art, Copenhagen, Denmark


De Jager, E.J.(1992). Images of Man: Contemporary South African Black Art and Artists, Fort Hare University Press: Alice.

Miles, E. (2004). Polly Street: The Story of an Art Centre, The Ampersand Foundation: Johannesburg.

Nel, K. (2005). “Edoardo Villa: Creating an African Presence” in Nel, E., Burroughs, E. and Von Maltitz, A. (Eds.), Villa at 90, Jonathan Ball Publishing: Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Sack, S. (1988), The Neglected Tradition: Towards a New History of South African Art (1930-1988), Johannesburg Art Gallery: Johannesburg, p 107.

Proud, H (2007), Revisions: Expanding the Narrative of South African Art, UNISA Press, Pretoria

CECIL EDWIN FRANS SKOTNES is a pivotal figure in twentieth-century South African art. As a member of the younger generation of artists emerging in the 1950s after the Second World War, he assisted notably in generating an art which embraced a South African identity, was more in line with international trends and which renounced the moribund and derivative conventions of the first half of the century.

However, it was his role as a cultural officer of the Non-European Affairs Department at the Polly Street Art Centre in Johannesburg from 1952 until 1966 that earned him an honourable position in the history of the emergence of black urban art in South Africa. His influence is identifiable in the work of many who studied and worked at Polly Street, then virtually one of the only places for black artists to receive training.

For this reason Skotnes, even as a white artist, was included in groundbreaking revisionist exhibitions on the marginalised history of black artists in the apartheid era, such as The Neglected Tradition, held at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 1988.


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