The presence of these two impressive paintings by Robert Gwelo Goodman on one sale provides the rare opportunity of seeing some of the artist’s finest works and assessing how his French training and exposure to the international art world impacted on the development of his style. In 1895 he studied at Paris’s famed Académie Julian where Henri Matisse was a fellow pupil. Following success in London when three landscape paintings were accepted at The Royal Academy in 1898 and a painting tour of India in 1903/4, he re-settled in South Africa in 1911.
The influence of the French Realists encouraged his interest in familiar topographical environments and what art historian, Evelyn Cohen, called an “honest portrayal of the major features of a specific scene”.1 The paintings provide uncommon insights into the historical development of Tulbagh and Cape Town, before urban expansion. In addition to revealing how these places appeared in a bygone era, Goodman’s painterly treatment evokes the unique qualities of each location.
His canvases primed with Van Dyck brown, in the academic tradition, provide strength and stability, while their surface vitality derives from the broken brushstrokes inspired by Impressionist and Divisionist painters. Successfully employed in the vivid Tulbagh landscape, these multiple brush marks capture and refract light with shimmering effect and contribute to the atmosphere of intense heat. By contrast, the verdant forest and cool tones of Table Mountain are rendered with a subtlety that underscores the tranquillity of the scene at daybreak.
1. Cohen, Evelyn. 1988. ‘Early Training and French Vision in South African Art Prior to 1920’. In Alexander, Lucy; Bedford, Emma and Cohen, Evelyn. Paris and South African Artists 1850-1965, Cape Town: South African National Gallery. Page 15.
Royal Institute Galleries, 195 Piccadilly, London, 6 - 28 June, 1924
Newton Thompson, Joyce. (circa 1951) Gwelo Goodman: South African Artist, London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd. Page 135, illustrated between pages 68 and 69.
Newton Thompson, Joyce. 'Gwelo Goodman (1871-1939)', Our Art, Pretoria: The Journal Lantern in Collaboration with SA Broadcasting Corporation. Illustrated on page 63, figure III.