The permanent art collection of Stellenbosch University (SU) dates back to 1919. Today, this large and important collection consists of more than 3 000 pieces and covers a wide variety of themes and expressive media. The works represent both local and foreign artists and span a period of about 150 years.
Like most public and educational institutions in our country, the University, when building up its art collection, initially concentrated on purchases and donations of works that primarily had a bearing on its own past. It is noteworthy that from 1960 onwards about half the total collection of artworks came to the University as a steady stream of bequests.
The permanent collection includes the J du P Scholtz Collection, which is central to the permanent collection (it was largely on the strength of this collection that the SU Museum was founded); the Solomon Caesar Malan Collection, a remarkable collection of watercolours and drawings executed by this Swiss born English artist in 1839; the Peter and Catherine Freund International Printmaking Collection; a significant collection of Christo Coetzee’s work; and the largest collection of Maggie Laubsers in South Africa. Some of the stand-alone treasures of the permanent collection are an important sculpture by the renowned sculptor August Rodin, an etching by Salvador Dali and a ceramic vase by Pablo Picasso.
The greater part of the SU permanent collection represents what is generally known as ‘modern’ art. Much of the collection comprises pieces selected because of the impact that they had on the country’s past. In this respect, artists such as Moses Kottler, Anton van Wouw, Edward Roworth, Solomon Caesar Malan, WH Coetzer, JEA Volschenk, Hugo Naudé, Erich Mayer, Adolph Jentsch, Strat Caldecott, JH Pierneef, Florence Zerffi, May Hillhouse, Cecil Higgs, Maggie Laubser, Irma Stern, Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller, Gregoire Boonzaier, Edoardo Villa, Cecil Skotnes, Larry Scully, Paul du Toit, Christo Coetzee, Nel Erasmus, Erik Laubscher, Herman van Nazareth, Stanley Pinker, Judith Mason, Paul Emsley, John Muafangejo, Jackson Hlungwani, Leonard Matsoso, Collen Maswanganyi, Peter Clarke and Willie Bester are among the artists represented in the collection.
Our ever-growing collection contains a comprehensive number of nineteenth-century works. The artists of these works were mostly visitors to the Cape who recorded their travel experiences with pen and paintbrush. Today they are regarded as noteworthy precursors of the local landscape tradition.