Volschenk, Jan Ernst Abraham (1853 – 1936)
Jan Ernst Abraham Volschenk
Jan Volschenk was born of Dutch parentage on the farm ‘Melkhoutskraal’. James Reitz, the Government
Land Surveyor, observed him drawing on the farm and mentioned it to his brother Gysbert, who then
persuaded his parents to send him to school in Riversdale. He later joined the firm of Reitz & Versfeld
as a bookkeeper. He did however continue painting in his spare time. In 1879 he wrote to SAFAA,to
enquire about exhibiting in Cape Town, whereby he submitted 4 works.
In 1893 he joined the Reitz family on a trip to Europe and after being stimulated by his visits to the
various art galleries, on his return in 1894 he joined the SA Drawing Club and exhibited with them. At
the age of 51 he finally gave up his profession as an accountant and turned all his attention to his art.
He concentrated most of his work on the surrounding landscape in the area where he lived, the aloes
and Langeberg mountain range. While there are various works depicting surrounding farms, it is the
views of the veld across the aloes and the pink Cape heath towards the rocky Langeberg peaks that most
people remember his works by most.
Jan Volschenk is regarded by many as being the father of South African Art.
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- Jan Ernst Abraham Volschenk
Born: 1853 Riverdale, Cape Province.
Died: 1936 Riversdale, Cape Province.
1879: Jan Volschenk wrote to SAFAA to enquire about exhibiting in Cape Town; submitted four works.
1893: Jan Volschenk accompanied the Reitz family to Europe; stimulated by visits to art galleries.
1894: on his return Jan Volschenk joined the South African Drawing Club; exhibited with them.
1899: Jan Volschenk married Helen Smalberger of Riversdale; nine daughters, one of whom, Vera Volschenk, followed in his footsteps.
1904: at the age of 51 gave up his professional work as an accountant and turned his full attention to painting; Jan Volschenk joined the South African Society of Artists; concentrated on the surrounding landscape - the aloes and the Langeberg range; exceptionally observant and painstaking as a painter and as a naturalist -- renowned for his collection of 4 000 different specimens of beetles; interested in heraldry; Jan Volschenk designed decorations for festive events in Riversdale. Rarely exhibited, but works found a wide market; promoted by Ernest Lezard of Johannesburg; helped to popularize art in South Africa.
1936: Jan Volschenk suffered a stroke and died in Riversdale. Several works reproduced by E Schweikerdt (Pty) Ltd.
1924: South African Art, Empire Exhibition, Wembley.
1945: Memorial Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
1953: Rhodes Centenary Exhibition, Bulawavo;
1957: `Founders of Painting at Cape since 1857', South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley; AC White Gallery, Bloemfontein; Albany Museum, Grahamstown.