Coetzee, Christo (1929 – 2001)

Christo Coetzee was born in Johannesburg on 24 March 1929. His father died when he was 10 years old, and he
was raised by his mother and his two sisters who were 16 and 20 years older than him.

Growing up in Turffontein, Coetzee had no lack of material to spark his imagination, and he often spent his
evenings making mud-sculptures in the garden after the five-o’clock-rains. During his childhood he built
a miniature theatre complete with furniture and grand piano, and also made chessmen for his four-sided
chessboard out of washers and screws which he glued together and painted in bright colours. A friend of Chisto’s
parents, Finie Basson, owned many interesting works of art, and Christo found inspiration in her collection.
When he was 13, she gave Coetzee his first commission – a medium sized oil painting of pink and white roses
– for which she paid him £5. From the early days of his professional career in South Africa, he displayed a non-
conformist approach to painting. While his progressive contemporaries were engrossed in intensive experiment
with abstract idioms and were telescoping the time-lag between South African and international artistic
orientation, Christo Coetzee launched himself into public view with a parade of retrospective nostalgia.

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