Frans Oerder

Born: 1867, Rotterdam, Holland Died: 1944, Pretoria, South Africa The youngest of seven children his father felt that art as a career was foolish, but agreed to his training as a decorator. From 1880 – 1885 he studied at the Rotterdam Academy, winning the King William III Gold Medal Bursary, later also touring Italy and then studying in Brussels, thanks to a small inheritance from his father. Following his brother, he emigrated to South Africa in 1890, and initially worked as a house painter and decorator for the firm, De Wyn & Engelenburg. Due to shortage of work he joined the Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg Maatschappij and painted poles along the Delagoa Bay railway line. In 1894 he took up the post of art teacher at the Staatsmeisjesskool, which later became Pretoria High School for Girls.

At the same time he rented a studio in Church Street East. At this stage he was drawing newspaper cartoons and helping Anton Van Wouw with commissions. A frequent visitor to his studio during this period was one of his students, JH Pierneef. During the Anglo-Boer War he was appointed official war artist by President Paul Kruger. His sketches and paintings from this bitter period are held at the War Museum in Bloemfontein, Africana Museum in Johannesburg and the art collection of the University of Pretoria. After the war he found conditions difficult in South Africa and in 1908 returned to the Netherlands. H first settled in Brabant but later moved to Amsterdam where he married fellow artist Gerda Pitlo in 1910. She was the one to influence him into doing still life’s. He eventually returned to Pretoria with his wife in 1938. Complications following a bout of pneumonia left him debilitated, and he died in Pretoria in 1944.

Art Education

- 1880 to 1885 Frans Oerder studied art at Rotterdam Academy; further art tution under Ernest Blanc-Garin, Brussels.

Short Artist Biography

- Frans Oerder was the youngest of seven children of a municipal employee; his father opposed his choice of art as a career, but was persuaded to allow him to study decorating.

- 1885 Completed six year art course in five years, won King William III Gold Medal and Bursary; toured Italy; his father died leaving him a small amount of money which facilitated further art studies in Brussels.

- 1890 Frans Oerder followed his brother to South Africa; his first job was as house-painter to the firm De Wyn & Engelenburg; appointed art teacher at Girls's Secondary School Pretoria.

- 1894 Rented a studio in Pretoria; drew cartoons for newspapers; worked with Anton van Wouw; Pierneef a regular visitor to his studio.

- 1896 Painted in Zululand; exhibited in Cape Town.

1899 Frans Oerder joined Boer forces on outbreak of Anglo-Boer War; sketched in the field.

- 1903 After the war Frans Oerder traveled and painted along East African coast, contracted malaria.

- 1905 Elected member of South African Society of Artists.

- 1906 Back in Pretoria, he began to receive portrait and landscape commissions.

- 1908 Returned to Holland via Italy.

- 1908 to 1938 Frans Oerder settled first in Brabant later in Amsterdam.

- 1909 Won silver medal on International Exhibition, Amsterdam.

- 1910 Frans Oerder married Gerda Pitlo; retained connections with South Africa; designed cover for 'Die Brandwag'; sent work for exhibition in Johannesburg.

- 1920 Won silver medal on International Exhibition, Brussels.

- 1938 Frans Oerder returned to South Africa with his wife; exhibited in Cape Town; settled in Pretoria, tower-room of City Hall made available to him as a studio; painted several important portraits including Jan Smuts; traveled and painted in Cape Province, Natal and Northern Transvaal; severe bout of pneumonia weakened him, died in Pretoria in 1944.


- 1896 onwards: One-man art exhibitions in South Africa and Europe.

- 1950 Memorial Exhibition, Old Pretoria Art Gallery.

- 1953 Rhodes Centenary Exhibition, Bulawayo.

- 1965 Retrospective Exhibition, Pretoria Art Museum.

- 1979 'South African Printmakers' South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town.

Public Art Collections

South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; William Humphreys Art Gallery; King George VI Art Gallery; Africana Museum, Johannesburg; Albany Museum, Grahamstown; Bloemfontein War Museum; Rembrandt Art Foundation; University of Wits Art Gallery.

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