Diederick During was one of South Africa’s most original and unique artists, although to many commentators, largely overlooked in his lifetime. However, he is represented in many of the Country’s most influential collections, both public and private, and he was a regular exhibitor in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s at many of the most influential galleries of the day.
Initially trained to start work at the family’s law firm, During persuaded his father to allow him to follow his passion for painting. He gained a BA at Wits University in 1940 and this was followed by studies under the influential artist Maurice Van Essche at Wits Technical Art School completing his studies in 1944.
Despite jointly winning ‘Die Vaderland’s’ award with the rising superstar of the day, Johannes Meintjies, in 1949, During was a singular artist who painted from home and never mixed easily with his contemporaries. He was a keen photographer who documented his family holidays and travels and these memories and pictures were the basis for many works. Johannes Meintjies became a good friend and in early works there are occasional glimpses of the influence that one may have had on the other.
Whilst early works in the 40’s and 50’s he incorporated elements of the surreal in highly patterned landscapes, During never fully left his cubist roots. His paintings in the later 50’s and 60’s and early 70’s become more expressionist and also explored the graphic patterns that could be seen in traditional African craft. Always experimenting with paints and board, his 60’s compositions of workers and miners in Johannesburg gave the paintings a mechanical feel with sharp lines and he often worked with the reverse of the masonite to create stippled effects.
A journalist writing about one of During’s exhibitions in 1972 wrote
‘His individualistic way of presenting African themes in a near – surrealistic style makes for unusual decorative panels. Here’s hoping that this underrated artist might at least achieve some of the acclaim he so richly deserves.’
By then he was 55 and in considerable demand from collectors, many of whom religiously bought from each exhibition. He exhibited less frequently in the latter part of the 70’s preferring to sell direct to existing clients from home.