Josef Osser (1913-1955)

Artwork by Josef Osser

Josef Osser was born in Alpen am Niederrhein, Germany. He studied art at the Düsseldorf Academy, and emigrated to South Africa in 1936. He became a member of the South African Association of Arts, held several solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions from 1952 onwards. Osser was co-founder and chairman of the Studio Club, which later formed the nucleus of the Cape Town Art Centre in Green Point, where he lectured from 1963 to 1983.

Osser’s works often exude a sense of calm- his carefully selected palate coming fresh greens and blues which are balanced out by dabs of complimentary reddish browns. His use of linear abstraction creates a composition of angular planes that collapse the perspective in true cubist fashion. By applying different techniques, alternating his mark-making between brush and palette knife, Osser works are texturally rich and visually interesting. Unusually Osser often scratched into the layered paint to outline the objects and reveal the negative spaces, in some instances exposing the original board. These incised marks and cross-hatched areas bring a shimmering vitality to the otherwise dull and limited palette, adding life and movement to the composition.