Ruth Prowse: Malay quarter - SOLD
Oil on canvas on board
33 x 40,5 cm
Signed with monogram bottom right
Sold - 2009
Born Ethel Ruth Prowse, 1883, Queenstown, Cape Province
Died 1967, Cape Town
Ruth Prowse spent her early years in a rural setting on the slopes of Devils Peak in Cape Town. Between 1902 and 1908, she studied abroad at the Slade School and the Royal Academy Schools in London, and La Palette in Paris.
On her return to South Africa, she started teaching art in Cape Town, and was elected a member of the South African Society of Artists. She returned to England from 1923 to 1925 to further her studies, and in 1928 she was appointed Keeper of the Michaelis Collection in Cape Town.
Prowse was a founding member of the New Group in 1937, and was later elected chairlady. She also served on several art advisory and selection committees. Ruth Prowse worked vigorously to promote the preservation of the historic buildings of Old Cape Town, and was awarded the Cape Tercentenary Foundation Medal for this work in 1959.
Prowse’s love and appreciation of the historical parts of Cape Town is evident in her paintings of its old squares and narrow streets, District Six, and especially the Malay Quarter. She was able to capture the characteristics of the street scenes and views of old Cape Town and its people with warmth and intimacy. This resulted in her relatively small scale paintings, with their graded colours and carefully constructed compositions, not only being sincere and truthful as works of art, but also serving as historical documents.
Ruth Prowse bequeathed her home, ‘The Retreat’, in the historic Roodebloem Estate in Woodstock, Cape Town, for use as an art centre. The gift was not accepted by the local or provincial authorities, and the gesture would have been fruitless had it not been for the efforts of Erik Laubscher, who in 1970 formed a committee to undertake the project of opening the Ruth Prowse Art Centre. The centre opened just one year later with Laubscher as its director, and was an immediate success - it continues to flourish to this day.
Esmé Berman, Art and Artists of South Africa, Cape Town, 1996, pp 356 and 357
Rupert Shephard, Our Art 2, Pretoria, 1961, pp 91 and 92