Artist Erik Laubscher, dies

Time of article published May 23, 2013

Share this article:

Fiona Chisholm

Erik (Frederik Bester Howard) Laubscher, the paint salesman who became the first living artist to fetch R1 million for a painting at a local auction, died in his sleep at Kronendal in Hout Bay yesterday morning.

Aged 86, he’d been in ailing health for some time.

Laubscher was a man of bold views and colours, a born teacher and a “hands-on” personality. He sold paints for 15 years to keep his family going and led from the front in the conversion of a dilapidated Woodstock outbuilding into the Ruth Prowse Art Centre and was its founder/director for 25 years.

In 2009, his oil painting Still Life with mandolin, music score and fruit (pictured) fetched R1.2 million at an auction in Cape Town.

During his illustrious career spanning 60 years, he represented South Africa at the São Paulo and Venice Biennale and was included in major museums, university and public collections.

“Laubscher’s contribution lies not only in his creative paintings, but in every field connected with art, like activism, at which he was always in the forefront, and in art teaching,” said Dr Hans Fransen, author of Erik Laubscher: A Life in Art published in 2009 by SMAC Art Gallery to coincide with Laubscher’s retrospective exhibition.

“Most of his life he was an abstract painter, particularly of landscapes. He was perhaps the one who most pertinently adapted abstract art to the South African scene.”

Laubscher was born on February 3, 1927 in Tulbagh. His father was Glasgow-trained physician with strong interests in psychiatry. His mother was the daughter of an Edinburgh professor of music.

His artistic talents were first recognised in 1940 at Pinelands Junior School but after UCT rejected him “because he could not draw”, he took private arts lessons with the well-known Belgian painter Maurice van Essche, who persuaded him to study in London.

Moving to the École de Paris changed his life. He fell in love with a young French artist, Claude Bouscharain, at the Academie Montmartre. They married in Cape Town in October 1951.

Laubscher is survived by his wife Claude, son Pierre and daughters Michèle Human and Francesca Gayraud-Laubscher.

Share this article: