John Mohl: A view of New Clare Location, Johannesburg - SOLD

John Mohl
A view of New Clare Location, Johannesburg - 1948
Oil on canvas
30 x 40 cm
Signed bottom right
Inscribed with the title on the back of the stretcher frame
Sold - 2009

Born John Koenakeefe Motlhakangna, 29 September 1903 at Dinokana, Zeerust, North West Province
Died 28 January 1985 at the age of 81, Soweto, Johannesburg

John Koenakeefe Mohl appealed to Gerard Sekoto not to leave the country of his birth:
South Africa or Africa needs artists badly, you see, to paint our people, our life, our way of living, not speaking in the spirit of apartheid or submission, but there are no artists here and there are no black artists…

Elza Miles comments: Mohl practised what he preached. His landscapes, which have a strong sense of the historical significance of place, are windows on South African life and scenery.

Mohl’s artistic talent was spotted by the Reverend Hale of the London Missionary Society, who, with the assistance of the Lutheran Church, arranged for Mohl to study painting in Düsseldorf, Germany for 5 years during the early 1930’s. On his return, Mohl took part in the 1936 Empire Exhibition, and actively pursued his career as an artist. Elza Miles describes his work from this period: He portrayed the land with its inhabitants busying themselves in their daily tasks: crushing corn, ploughing, fighting veld fires and in town going to work and returning by bicycle or on foot.

Miles continues: When Mohl established an art school, the White Studio, behind his home in Annadale Street, Sophiatown, it was the first establishment of this kind for Africans. According to ‘Bantu World’, Mohl described his objective as follows: ‘Our efforts in this studio aim at encouraging African talent through bringing within reach of promising pupils a good training in painting’ because: ‘A very high percentage of our talent lies buried. It is for Africans themselves to unearth it, train it and enable it to make its full contribution to the culture of our country. What is more, African artists will be among the foremost interpreters of our people to the other races’ (20 May 1944). Mohl kept the school going from 1944 until Sophiatown was demolished.

A study of the street map of this area reveals that the view of ‘New Clare location’ depicted in this 1948 painting, was most likely painted from Mohl’s home in Annadale Street in Sophiatown, which is in a relatively elevated position in relation to the surrounding neighbourhoods. Looking south, the church spire featured in the distance would in all probability be that of the St Francis Anglican Church, in the suburb that is today called Newclare.

South African Academy Exhibition 1948 - Certificate No 62 (label on back of stretcher frame)

Elza Miles, Land and Lives, Cape Town, 1997, pp 57 to 62
Steven Sack, The Neglected Tradition: Towards a New History of South African Art (1930-1988), Johannesburg, 1988, p 116

To view the John Mohl web page click here