Gordon Vorster (1924-1988)

Artwork by Gordon Vorster


Gordon Vorster was born in 1924 in Warrenton in the Cape Province. His early childhood was spent amid the diamond fields along the borders of the Kalahari Desert. Later he lived on a farm near Kimberley. His love for and knowledge of the veld were nurtured during this period. After the war he remained in Florence to paint and also visited Rome and Paris. Pierre Demarne, Professor of Art at the Sorbonne, once said of Vorster that he would be one of the ten most celebrated artists in the world if only he would move to Paris.

He returned to South Africa in 1947, married and commenced studies at the University of the Witwatersrand under Willem Hendriks, Charles Argent and Dr. Maria Stein Lessing. Throughout his university years he continued to write for overseas and local publications.

In 1949 he became a scriptwriter and art director at the Killarney Studios in Johannesburg. Here he directed a number of documentaries and feature films during the thirteen years of his employment. It was during this time at the Killarney that Vorster’s talents ramified in many directions. He held numerous exhibitions of paintings and graphics of bushveld landscapes and wildlife.

In 1955 at the Pretoria Centenerary, 3 of his pictures were exhibited for the first time and immediately drew considerable public attention. By 1956 he had his first one man show and from this a painting was included in the Venice Biennale in 1958. In 1962 an illness brought his multifarious activities to a halt, he retreated into the country and concentrated on painting. In 1965 he held an exhibition in Johannesburg which was an immediate sell out. This was followed by many successful exhibitions and sales abroad. During the 60’s he began experimenting with various techniques and an abstract analysis of landscape forms.

In the 80’s solo exhibitions were held at The Everard Read Gallery first in 1983 and again in 1985. He participated in the wildlife Artists of the World exhibition and in 1988 in the Wildlife exhibition at The Sanderling Gallery. During 1987 the Rand Afrikaans University recognized him as one of South Africa’s most significant 20th century painters and staged an exhibition showing one hundred works, including thirty-six experimental landscapes without animals. The exhibition also featured his Genesis Series which started in 1973. Vorster’s works are in many public and private collections throughout South Africa, and in many private collections in America and England. Gordon Vorster died in 1988.