Born: 1914, Dundee, Natal
Died: 2007, Cape Town, South Africa
Eleanor Esmonde-White was born in Dundee, Natal in 1914. She studied at the University of Natal
under OJP Oxley. From the year 1933 to 1935, she studied at the Royal college of Art
in London and from 1935 – 1936 at the Bristish School
in Rome where she studied mural painting.
A commission to paint murals (directly onto the walls), with Le Roux Smith Le Roux, for South Africa House in London, established both artists’ reputations a muralists. Exhibition murals, tapestry and mosaic designs for public buildings, occupied much of Esmonde-White’s early career. While teaching design at the Michaelis School of Fine art, University of Cape Town
, from 1951, she began painting on a smaller scale and making prints.
Working within a figurative idiom at a time when many artists had turned to abstraction, Esmonde-White always imbued her paintings with a humanist content, painting scenes, predominantly of women, often in peasant communities, at work or at leisure, at work or at leisure. It is an affirmative, somewhat idyllic vision of rural women which she represents, upholding unchanging human qualities which invite empathy and comfortable reflection.