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, 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 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.
During spent several years in the Strand just outside Cape Town probably coinciding with an early solo exhibition in 1946. It was around this time that During met the artist, Maggie Laubscher, who became a lifelong friend and godmother to During’s daughter Ilse. During must have felt comfortable with Laubscher’s strong use of colour and her interpretations of humble rural life.
Whilst early works in the 40’s and 50’s 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
‘ If ever an artist had all the characteristics in his work that would appeal to collectors, it is, one would think, Diederick During. His exhibition at Gallery 101, Hollard Street, Johannesburg shows his imagination and technical ability at their best. 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.
Ebony is delighted to show a small collection of previously unseen works which give a brief insight to the genius of George Diederick During.
Exhibitions 1946 First Solo Exhibition, Cape Town Followed by many solo exhibitions in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Gallery 101 Solo Exhibitions, Johannesburg 1964,65,66,68,71 and 1972 Joe Wolpe Gallery 1970
1956 First Quarennial of South African Art 1981 Republic Festival, Durban
Public Collections Iziko National Gallery, Cape Town Hester Rupert Museum, Graaff – Reinet Sanlam Art Collection National Gallery of Zimbabwe Pretoria Art Gallery Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein Indianapolis Art Gallery, USA University of the Witswaterstrand Roodeport City Council