Erich Mayer

Born: 1876, Karlsruhe, Germany Died: 1960, Pretoria, South Africa Erich (Ernst Karl) Mayer was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. Mayer was educated in Berlin, could not afford to study art, but won a bursary for architectural training. In 1896 his studies were discontinued when ill-health confined him to bed for two years. In 1898 he was seeking for a healthier climate, he came to South Africa. He was appointed Assistant Land-Surveyor at Vrede in the Orange Free State. He joined a Boer commando fighting in the Anglo Boer war where he sketched farmers at whose farms he stopped over with his battalion. He was captured by the British at Mafeking and sent to St Helena where he devoted his leisure time to art.

Later in his life he worked as a newspaper artist and became acquainted with Pieter Wenning and JH Pierneef, to whom he taught the art of woodcut. He married Margaretha Gutter, and the two traveled by caravan through South Africa. Mayer’s paintings became very popular among the rural communities. Mayer wandered widely and recorded as he went, however, because he was a sympathetic observer rather than a heroic narrator, it is not the epic events but the ordinary participants and their environment that are preserved in his pictorial accounts. In general, Mayer worked within the popular representational tradition. The curious Baobab tree or “Kremetartboom”, figures with great frequency in his landscape painting. Mayer died in 1960 in Pretoria.

Artist CV

Art education

1894-96: architecture at Charlottenburg Technische Hochschule, Berlin.

1903: some study in Germany.

1907: drawing and painting in Karlsruhe.

1909-11: drawing and painting in Stuttgart.

1935-36: in Florence, under Chini and Annigoni

Biography

- Erich Mayer was educated in Berlin, could not afford to study art, but won a bursary for architectural training.

- 1896: his studies were discontinued when ill-health confined him to bed for two years.

- 1898: seeking a more healthy climate, Erich Mayer came to South Africa; appointed Assistant Land-Surveyor at Vrede, Freestate.

- 1899: Erich Mayer joined a Boer commando fighting in the Anglo-Boer War; sketched farmers at whose farms he stopped-over with his battalion.

- 1900: Erich Mayer was captured by the British at Mafeking and sent to St Helena. There he devoted his leisure-time to art.

- 1902: Erich Mayer was repatriated to Germany as an alien; spent winter 1902-03 in Tunisia.

- 1904: poor health brought him back to South West Africa, where he devoted himself to painting. He returned twice to Germany for art studies, in 1907 and 1909.

- 1911: following Union, Erich Mayer was able to re-enter South Africa; moved successively from Port Elizabeth to Potchefstroom to Pretoria; worked as a newspaper artist; became acquainted with Wenning and Pierneef, to whom he taught the art of woodcut.

- 1914: once again interned during WW1; 21 months in camp in Pietermaritzburg.

- 1916: after his release on parole, Erich Mayer traveled and exhibited in the Transvaal and Stellenbosch.

- 192I-25: based in Johannesburg.

- 1928: Erich Mayer married Margaretha Gutter and the two traveled South Africa by caravan; Mayer's paintings became very popular among the rural community; commission for a mural for Johannesburg College of Education.

- 1931: Erich Mayer settled in Pretoria.

- 1933: he and his wife started a spinning and weaving school in Pretoria.

- 1935-36: Erich Mayer studied in Florence.

- 1939: following separation from his wife, Erich Mayer traveled and exhibited all over the Transvaal.

- 1943: Erich Mayer awarded Medal of Honour for Painting by South African Akademie.

- 1953: `Erich Mayer Album' published by HAUM - De Bussy. Illustrated a number of Afrikaans books, including `Nuwejaarfees Op Palmietfontein' by Leon Mare. Several of his paintings have bee reproduced by E Schweikerdt (Pty) Ltd. Member of NSA, Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts, East London Society of Arts, Transvaal Society of Arts

Exhibitions

- 1914: first one-man exhibition, Johannesburg; widely in all quarters of South Africa.

- 1920-: regular exhibitor on South African Academy, Jhb.

- 1952: Van Riebeeck Tercent Exhibition, CT.

- 1962: `Art in South West Africa', South African National Galllery, Cape Town.

- 1972: Prestige retrospective exhibition, Pretoria Art Museum.

Exhibitions

Johannesburg Art Galllery; Pretoria Art Museum; AC White Gallery. Bloemfontein; William Humphreys Gallery, Bloemfontein War Museum.

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