Monographs on African Artists an Annotated Bibliography
Introduction
print-friendly version

Welz, Jean, 1900-1975

Miles, Elza. The world of Jean Welz. Vlaeberg, South Africa: Published for the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Foundation by Fernwood Press, 1997. 143pp. illus. (pt. color), portraits, bibliog. (pp. 141-142). ND1096.W44M56 1997X AFA. OCLC 39292360.

Jean Welz (1900-1975) was born in Salzburg, Austria, and at the age of 37 emigrated to South Africa. During his remarkable life he worked as architect, artist and art teacher, coping with ill health and resourcefully meeting the challenges of life in a new country to become a highly esteemed artist.

In this first ever monograph on Jean Welz, Elza Miles explores his world. She discusses his life in Europe and thereafter in South Africa, traces his career change from architect to artist, and deals with his contributions as artist and art teacher. Through Welz’s story she gives readers access to his varied artworks and locates his œuvre in the context of South African art. Using his paintings and drawings, many of which were sold directly from his studio, and working with the full co-operation of Welz’s family, she brings the person and the artist to life.

Welz studied architecture in Vienna, Austria. In 1925 he settled in Paris where he began his professional career. Apart from assisting Adolf Loos, he had contact with Le Corbusier and his associates and was influenced by the Purist aesthetics advocated by Le Corbusier. Although Paris provided intellectual stimulation, Welz was ever conscious of the threat Fascism posed to free expression. In 1937 Welz, his wife, Danish journalist Inger Christensen, and young son moved to South Africa. He worked as an architectural draughtsman in Johannesburg, and interrelated regularly with collegues at the Department of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand. After he was diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis, he recuperated at the Springkell Sanatorium, Modderfontein, where he began drawing the landscape around him in pen and ink. These artworks were first exhibited in Johannesburg in 1940.

The first Welz family moved to the Little Karoo in 1940. It was here that Welz met Hugo Naudé and founded the Art Centre in Worchester. His third career was launched here - - while developing his particular techniques of working in pastel, charcoal and oil paint, he also dedicated himself to teaching art.

In his still lifes, landscapes, portraits and nude studies Welz transformed seemingly usual subject matter to expose us, the viewers, to his poetic vision. In The World of Jean Welz, Elza Miles gives us insight into this artist’s continual exploration of nature, and the ‘musical’ works which he created. These are testimony to his reputation in the world of art.