Robert-Gwelo Goodman

Born: 1871, Taplow, England

Died: 1933, London, England Gwelo Goodman came to South Africa from England as a teenager. He studied briefly at the Academie Julian in Paris from 1895 – 1897 under 2 rigorous teachers, William Bouguerau and Gabriel Ferrier, whose attention to drawing, anatomy and perspective was either imitated or hated, depending upon their students’ inclination. There is little doubt that Goodman learned much from them.

Like J.H. Amshewitz, Goodman was an excellent draftsman. This skill, which he turned to landscape painting, won him early acceptance by the Royal Academy in London, where three of his works were exhibited in 1898. In 1900 he painted the battlefields of the Anglo-Boer war in South Africa, then returned to England, adopting Gwelo (the name of the Rhodesian town founded in 1895) as his second name, thereby labeling himself as a colonial artist.

 Traveling and painting in India and England, he returned to South Africa in 1911 and settled first in Johannesburg and after 1920, in Cape Town. There were numerous collectors in South Africa who endorsed his private judgment, even long after his death it is seldom that a Gwelo Goodman picture, comes up for sale.

Artist CV


- The son of a British Railways employee.

- 1886 Robert Goodman came to South Africa with his parents.

- 1888 Became a railway-clerk, first in Paarl, later in Newlands. Robert Goodman began to attend art-classes; much encouraged by Morland.

- 1895 With an allowance of R80 per year from his father (out of his modest income as station-master at Wynberg, Cape Province), supported by a guarantee of R120 per year from the similarly needy Morland, he set off for Paris.

- 1897 Morland lost his teaching-post and could no longer spare him any money; life became extremely difficult. Robert Goodman moved to London and settled in Chelsea.

- 1898 Three landscapes accepted by the Royal Academy; subsequently a few portrait commissions.

- 1900 Robert Goodman received permission from Lord Roberts to sketch the battlefields of the Anglo-Boer War and visited South Africa. Before returning to England, Robert Goodman decided to adopt a distinctively South African name. He chose the name of the young Rhodesian town which had been founded in 1895, the year he commenced his professional career and ever afterwards signed himself R Gwelo Goodman or RG Goodman.

- 1901 – 1915 Goodman slowly established a reputation as a landscape painter in England. He traveled and painted in India during 1903/04; the trip was followed by a period of appreciable success. Then, in 1911 Robert Goodman contracted rheumatic fever and came out to South Africa to recover; visited Johannesburg.

- 1915 Robert Goodman won a Gold Medal for pastel drawings at the San Francisco International Exhibition. He returned to South Africa; took a studio in Cape Town.

- 1917 Robert Goodman was included in Roworth’s essay on South African Landscape Painting in the Studio publication, “Art of the British Empire Overseas”; he lived for six months in Howard Pim’s Johannesburg home, painting the mines and participating in the activities of the Johannesburg Sketch Club; began to produce studies of flowers.

- 1929 He rented the neglected 18th Century Newlands House, adapted it and moved in with his wife; this was the beginning of an abiding interest in the preservation of architectural treasures; also a period of many paintings of cape Dutch homesteads. Illustrated Dorothea Fairbridge’s “Historic Houses of South Africa”.

- 1929 – 1939 During the last ten years of his life, in addition to his painting Robert Goodman spent much time in architectural activity; among other things, he restored and reconstructed the old Cannon Brewery as his own family home, planned the restoration of Newlands House for Joyce Newton-Thomson (his later biographer) and designed Tongaat Township, Natal, for Saunders Sugar Estates.

- 1933 Robert Goodman was commissioned to paint ten mural panels for South African House, London. Towards the end of his life he became totally absorbed in gardening and painted a preponderance of flower-studies.

- 1951 He was the subject of a monograph, “Gwelo Goodman – South African Artist”, by Joyce Newton-Thompson, published by Howard Timmins.

Art Exhibitions

- 1898 Royal Academy; subsequently included almost annually throughout his life.

- 1901 First one-man art exhibition, Cape Town.

- 1904 First one-man London art exhibition; many subsequently in England and South Africa.

- 1919 Major art exhibition in Johannesburg, showing his pictures of the mines (one in Johannesburg Art Gallery) together with nine flower-pieces.

- 1924 Major art exhibition of 176 South African landscapes at Royal Institute Galleries, London.

 - 1948 Overseas Exhibition of South African Art, Tate Gallery..

Public Art collections

South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Durban Art Gallery; William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley; AC White Gallery, Bloemfontein; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg; Albany Museum, Grahamstown.

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