Described by Howard Pim, one-time Mayor of Johannesburg, as a ‘Native genius’ as early as 1928, Moses Tladi, perhaps this country’s first black landscape painter in the traditional, realist mode, and the first to formally exhibit at the South African National Gallery, has remained largely and sadly unappreciated since his death in 1959. Recently, however, thanks to a nationally touring retrospective of his work, appropriately titled Moses Tladi Unearthed, the quality and drama of his intimate landscapes are back in the public eye.
Bearing in mind that he shared his Highveld landscape with JH Pierneef, Erich Mayer and Gerard Sekoto, to name only a few of his more familiar contemporaries, it is remarkable that his work is not better known or celebrated. Admittedly, as the lion’s share of Tladi’s forty-odd works has remained in his family’s hands, the rarity of his pictures has played a role. In fact, Near the Mill – Kroonstad (OFS) and Two Hillocks, the two examples offered here, are the first of the artist’s works to appear at auction.
Tladi served his country during the Second World War, and was based at an army supply depot in Kroonstad. Near the Mill – Kroonstad (OFS), which was certainly painted during this time, is thus particularly significant, as much a marvellously-lit, evocative view as a topographical document.
Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, Moses Tladi Unearthed, 24 September 2015 - 14 March 2016.
Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, Moses Tladi Unearthed, 15 March 2017 - 16 July 2017.
Angela Read Lloyd (2009). The Artist in the Garden: The Quest for Moses Tladi, Print Matters: Noordhoek. Illustrated in colour on page 201.