Born 1935 – 2009
South African landscape artist, Wessel Marais, was born to a small-town postmaster. As was the custom at the time, his father was part local dignitary, confidant and mainstay of small town activity. He was also a minor poet who had a profound influence on his son, and believed that a man’s inner presence must express itself in some creative form.
Wessel Marais’ childhood was spent in various small towns. He recalls living on large plots covered in cosmos flowers and criss-crossed by railway lines. Wessel was introduced to drawing by an older friend called Simon, using the medium of sticks and sand. Wessel’s favourite subject matter was trains, which he drew travelling at great speed – upside down!
On leaving school, Wessel’s main ambition was to be a pilot. However he became a postmaster, just like his father. He quickly became bored with the humdrum 9–5 job and took classes in commercial art in the evenings. This, says Wessel, gave life a whole new meaning, and soon little drawings were being executed in the Post Office and inevitably getting mixed up with “official documents”. Before jibes became formal notes of censure, Wessel left the Post Office to work in a shop.
This budding South African artist took lessons after-hours from Zakkie Eloff, the famous South African wildlife and landscape artist. Wessel was soon drawing inspiration from Erich Meyer’s landscapes, and the whole range of the masters of French impressionism, for his landscape art. While his work improved rapidly, and he found willing buyers both within South Africa and abroad, Wessel considered his art to be “muddlesome”.
Italian painter, Guiseppe Cataruzzo, eventually summoned Wessels to his Pretoria Gallery and set about honing his skills. Buoyed by this success, Wessel took the risky decision to paint full time. Supported by his wife Christine, successful exhibitions followed in all the major cities within South Africa.
After a long and fruitful life, Wessel Marais sadly passed away in April 2009.
Style and Format
Wessel Marais’ studies of landscapes, city scenes and flowers are full of life. Cape Coons pulsating with boisterousness and the joy of living, and children playing in gay abandon, have become sought-after collectors’ items throughout South Africa.
Wessel believed that a skilled artist must be able to interpret any subject matter successfully on canvas. His personal preferences were to portray everyday scenes with an innate playful, abandon and poetic intuition. His ability to portray the captivating play of light and shadow in vibrant colours was a gift, which is highly appreciated by his many admirers.
“When I’m at work,” said Wessel, “I am totally absorbed with the intangible elements of the subject matter I try to portray. It is not so much the subject that matters, but the mystic energy floating from it that I try to capture in my oils. Sometimes I think I come close to succeeding in the capture of the indefinable element some people describe as art. I am however still learning, drawing most of my inspiration while flying my plane, a glider which has made it possible to realise my ambition of becoming a pilot”.
Wessel continued to improve in both style and execution throughout his life – developing the great use of translucent colour and light that have given many of his works a captivating “Turneresque” quality. As with sound investment theory, the sooner one starts collecting Wessel’s work, the more gratifying will be your investment in taste and value. Wessel’s work has been appreciating at close to 20% per annum since the mid to late 1990’s.
Wessel Marais’ work has been extensively collected by private individuals and corporations alike, both in South Africa and internationally. Although much of Wessel’s subject matter is South African, his style and manner of painting have a global appeal.