Nita Spilhaus

Born: 1878, Lisbon, Portugal

Died: 1967, Cape Town, South Africa

Nita Spilhaus was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1878. After her parents died during her infancy, she was raised by her grandfather in Lubeck, Germany. She studied art between 1896 – 1900 at Lubeck School of Art and Germany Kunst Akademie, Munich. According to her unpublished memoirs, she states that in Munich she studied at the same time and under the same master as Hugo Naude.

In 1907 she came to live with relatives in Cape Town, South Africa and within a few days after her arrival she met  Allerley Glossop. Hugo Naude and his wife also became intimate members of their circle. During World War I she was forced to paint indoors and therefore took to painting flowers. In 1915 she met Pieter Wenning and he became a very close friend of hers.

In 1921 Nita married a German Osteologist, Dr Simon and a few years later they moved to Munich. They came back to South Africa in 1929 at the time of the formation of the New Group where she was present at the opening of it’s first exhibition. She does however not appear to have been a member. In 1963 despite not being able to paint anymore due to her ill health an exhibition was arranged in Cape Town.

Artist CV


1896-1900: Lubeck School of Art, Germany Kunst Akademie, Munich.


Her father had come from the small German town of Lubeck to run a branch of the family business in Lisbon; her mother was Portuguese; both died during her infancy and she was reared by her grandfather in Lubeck. In her unpublished memoirs Nita Spilhaus states that she studied at Munich at the same time and under the same master as Hugo Naude, but did not meet him because men and women studied separately; worked primarily at drawing and etching.

1900: Nita Spilhaus published a folio of etchings of Lubeck; subsequently painted in the artists' colony at Dachau.

1907: Nita Spilhaus came to live with relatives in Cape Town; admitted that year as member of South African Society of Artists: met Allerley Glossop within a few days of arrival and a firm friendship developed: Hugo Naude and his wife became intimate members of their circle; drew and etched studies of' local trees and landscape.

1913: when Naude revisited Munich Nita Spilhaus took over his classes in Worcester.

1914: Nita Spilhaus desired to become first keeper of Michaelis Collection, but as a German she was not eligible for the appointment which went to Pauline Thomas, another member of the circle; WW1 was a difficult period; she was not allowed to paint outdoors, therefore took to flower-painting.

1915: Nita Spilhaus met Pieter Wenning during his stay in Cape Town; he became a close friend.

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