South African 1900-1975Online Works
Johann Max Friedrich Welz, known by the French version of his name, Jean, was born in Salzburg, Austria, into a family of gilders and picture framers. He studied architecture at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna and went to Paris in 1925 to oversee the construction of the Austrian Pavilion at the International Exhibition for Applied Arts. He immersed himself in the flourishing arts and culture scene in Paris and worked on various building projects with prominent Modernist architects such as Le Corbusier, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Adolf Loos. In 1937, Welz, with his wife Inger and firstborn son emigrated to South Africa with a letter of recommendation from Le Corbusier. In Johannesburg he was involved in redesigning and overseeing the rebuilding of the entrance foyer of the Wits University Great Hall after a fire.
Welz’s precarious health forced the family to seek out the dry climate of the Klein Karoo, where they lived in the isolated Tradouw Pass, and then at De Wet outside Worcester. In 1942 Welz was approached to curate the Hugo Naudé Estate after Naudé’s death and he established the Hugo Naudé Art Centre. That year he held successful solo exhibitions in Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Johannesburg and was invited by fellow artist Gregoire Boonzaier to join and exhibit with the New Group.
Welz represented South Africa on the Venice Biennale in 1948 and 1952, and on the São Paulo Biennale in 1957. In the 1960s and 70s paintings by Welz fetched the highest prices of any artist in South Africa. His oeuvre consists of abstracts, still lifes, landscapes, nudes and portraits, often painted in layers of colour glazed or scumbled. Jean Welz was the father of former Managing Director of Strauss & Co, auctioneer Stephan Welz.
Live Auctions 72 lots offered 65.28% sold R 12 811 348