Flamboyant and unconventional, Rosamund Everard-Steenkamp was the youngest of the original members of what became known as The Everard Group. The Everard Group comprised of Edith King and Bertha Everard, Bertha's daughters Ruth and Rosamund, and later Ruth's daughter Leonora and Leonora's daughter Nichola. Together they made up the remarkably creative family of women painters who lived in Carolina in Mpumalanga and span four generations. Isolated as they were from the artistic communities of Pretoria and Cape Town, they developed a visual language that has avoided many of the sentimentalities of 20th century South African painting.
Rosamund spent time in London and Paris in the 1920s with her mother and sister where she entered the Conservatoire to further her musical studies. Given that she had no formal art training, her paintings have an impressive visual strength and proved “most venturesome in terms of modern formalistic trends.”1
Whilst there is no concrete evidence to support the three women having been directly exposed to the work of the Bloomsbury Group strong comparisons can be made. Bertha was an avid reader of articles written by Roger Fry and Clive Bell, husband of the artist Vanessa Bell, two prominent members of the Bloomsbury Group and indeed her Hertfordshire landscapes evoke the works of Fry, Bell and Duncan Grant. However, it is in the work of Rosamund that this influence is perhaps most recognisable.2
Characteristic of the Bloomsbury artists and their association with the Omega Workshop , Rosamund designed and painted the frame for Still Life with Erithrina Caffra.3 The decorative items produced by Omega notably Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant again draw comparisons with the work of Rosamund. This is beautifully illustrated in the pulpit of the Berwick Church; Duncan Grant decorated this with three flanking still lifes framed within ornate trompe l’oeil boarders.4
Still Life with Erithrina Caffra has been rendered in a decorative pattern of flat planes coupled with dazzling colour. A visual parallel can be made between this and a painting by Dolores Courtney titled Still Life, which was acquired from the collection of Roger Fry and is now housed in a private collection.5 Courtney moved from England to Paris in 1920 and, given the similarity between their works, we can imagine that the two women may well have met and a visual discourse struck up. Rosamund shares with Courtney a concern for simple and bold realisations in strong jarring colours. Whilst Courtney explored a Cézannesque picture plane in her composition, Rosamund’s painting is a simpler two-dimensional arrangement in which the forms themselves provide interest rather than dramatic visual shifts.
1 Berman, Esmé, Art & Artists of South Africa, A.A. Balkema, Cape Town, 1983, page 154.
2 Harmsen, Frieda, The Women of Bonnefoi: The Story of the Everard Group, J.L. van Schaik (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, 1980, page 95.
3 In 1913 Fry established the Omega Workshop, which provided a platform for members of the Bloomsbury Group to undertake commercial commissions for everyday items such as textiles and ceramics. The Omega Workshop was liquidated in 1920 but despite this became a major source of influence in 1920s interiors.
4 Anscombe, Isabelle, Omega and After: Bloomsbury and the Decorative Arts, Thames and Hudson, 1981, illustrated in colour on page 48.
The collection of Ruth Everard Haden.
Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, Retrospective Exhibition of the Everard Group, 1967.
Harmsen, Frieda, The Women of Bonnefoi: The story of the Everard Group, J.L. van Schaik (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, 1980, page 159, plate 184, illustrated.
Crump, Alan, The Everard Phenomenon: An Exhibition of Paintings by the Everard Family, The Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, 2000, page 119, catalogue number 49, illustrated.