de Smidt, Abraham ( 1829 – 1908 )
Abraham de Smidt was born in 1829 in Cape Town, South Africa. He followed a family tradition by entering
the Cape Colony Civil Service at the age of 17. De Smidt had a successful career as a surveyor, culminating
in 1873 when he became Surveyor-General of the Cape Colony, a post he held with great distinction until his
retirement in 1889 when he left for England, where he later died.
De Smidt was one of the few Cape art connoisseurs of his day. Always active in art circles, he was founder-
member of the South African Fine Arts Association and a trustee for Thomas Butterworth Bayley, whose
paintings were to form the nucleus of the South African National gallery collection.
Abraham de Smidt was primarily a landscapist and his imagination was controlled by his training in
topography, creating what he himself called “an impression of a harmonious whole” . His early teacher,
Thomas Bowler, doubtless influenced his practice. Both admired the British painters, Turner and Harding.
Like Harding, De Smidt used Chinese white watercolour in order to achieve dramatic contrasts, often
overpainting on dark colour areas. Abraham de Smidt resided in South Africa until 1889, where he left for
England, and where he also passed away in 1908