Fern, Emily (1881 – 1953)
Emily Fern was born in Australia of Manx parents, who came to South Africa in 1889. Her life and work show a
single minded attempt to follow the most advanced European art. She became a permanent and rather anxious
student, always in search of new and better teachers. She had her first lesson in oil painting from a nun, while a
pupil at a convent in Johannesburg. Later she took lessons in pastel from G.S. Smithard and in 1913, became one
of the first students to enrol at the newly opened Johannesburg School of Art. She undertook further tuition from
J.H. Amshewitz and went on to study in London and Paris.
Fern played an active role in local art life and was a member of every Johannesburg art society during her life.
She taught art privately and at the Witwatersrand Technical Art School from 1926 – 1928 and exhibited on group
shows for 50 years from 1901. She died in 1953 in Johannesburg.
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