Antiquarian Auctions

Auction #75 begins on
30 May 2019 16:30 GMT

Battiss (Walter)

THE AMAZING BUSHMAN (Presentation copy of the artist’s first book)

Art in South Africa

Published: Pretoria, No date (Preface dated 1939)

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Booklet and a portfolio of prints: the booklet comprises 36 pages, bound in pictorial brown card wrappers tied at the back with a leather thong, the portfolio contains 33 reproductions of bushman paintings mounted on cards with captions, 2 loose plates and an Extra Plate an Original black print of engraving from Koffiesfontein, O.F.S. signed by Battiss. The plates are contained in the original brown paper sleeve which is now very worn and delicate. A very good copy.

The booklet is signed on the title page by Battiss and a card bearing the presentation inscription, '16th June 1939. Dear Maurice, Very many thanks for your careful and valued help, Yours, Walter.' is tipped onto the inside front cover. M.G. Geen who was Battiss's colleague and life-long friend at Pretoria Boys High School. On retiring at the end of 1961, he was ordained went to minister on St. Helena, and then retired to Crediton in Devon.

Published privately by the Red Fawn Press. The edition limited to 200 copies of which this is number 62.

Walter Whall Battiss (1906 – 1982)
Walter Battiss was born in the Karoo town of Somerset East. His interest in archaeology and rock art began after his family moved to Koffiefontein in 1917, and it remained one of his main influences throughout his life. In 1919 the Battiss family settled in Fauresmith where Walter completed his education, matriculating in 1923. He took a job as a clerk in the Rustenburg Magistrates court in 1924. His spare time was spent painting.

After receiving his teaching diploma in 1933 he began to work at the Park School in Turffontein, Johannesburg. In 1936 he was appointed Art Master at Pretoria Boys School. He worked there for the next 30 years – with sporadic interruptions – and began to seriously study rock art.

Walter Battiss was a founding member of The New Group. He was unique in that he had not studied in Europe. In 1938 he visited Europe for the first time and met Abbé Henri Breuil. The following year Battiss published his first book titled ‘The Amazing Bushmen’. He married Grace Anderson, a renowned art-educationalist in 1940. It was at this stage that his previously realistic style of painting began to take on an hieratic, symbolic character.

In 1944 Walter Battiss became the first South African artist to ever represent rock art from a purely aesthetic point of view through his exhibition of copies of rock paintings. Four years later, in 1948, he ventured out into the Namib Desert where he lived among the Bushmen for a time. It was also the year that Battiss won the bronze medal and diploma for painting and woodcuts at the International Olympiad Exhibition.

While exhibiting a collection of South African art with the International Art Club in Turin, Italy in 1949, Walter Battiss had his first meeting with Pablo Picasso and Gino Severini. The 1950s and 60s brought with it many accolades for Walter Battiss, starting in 1952 when he was invited to lecture on South African art at the University of London. The following year saw him appointed Principal of the Pretoria Art Centre. It was at this stage of his career that he acquired the appellation, ‘The Bushman Painter’. It was also during this time that he began to experiment with coloured woodcuts. In 1954 he was elected a Member of the Executive Commission of the International Association of Plastic Arts. In the same year Battiss was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and printed his first serigraph.

1955 welcomed the appearance of calligraphic forms in his work, as well as the introduction of animal and human abstractions; the influence of Ndebele bead work in his art becomes clear. Battiss was awarded the Pro Arte Medal by the University of Pretoria in 1956. Two years later, in 1958, he returned to Pretoria Boys High School to teach. In 1960 he was elected a Fellow of the International Institute of Art and Letters.

Throughout his lifetime, Walter Battiss displayed an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, his travels and research extending in all directions. He wrote and published ten books, as well as numerous articles in both local and international publications, and participated in countless solo and group exhibitions. On 20 August 1982, Walter Battiss was struck down by a sudden heart attack and passed away. He was 76 years old.

  • Overall Condition: A Very Good Copy
  • Size: 4to (315 x 245 mm)
  • Sold By: Clarke's Africana & Rare Books
  • Contact Person: Paul Mills
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email:
  • Telephone: 021 794 0600
  • Preferred Payment Methods: Visa & Mastercard and Bank transfers
  • Trade Associations: ABA - ILAB, SABDA

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