Fred Page – Artist
Frederick Hutchinson Page was a Port Elizabeth artist regarded as South Africa’s foremost Surrealist painter. He died in 1984 at the age of 76 having produced a body of work which is remarkable not only for its unique personal imagery, but which is also one of the few examples, in the 20th century, of an painter who portrays with some accuracy, the particular architectural features of the city in which he lived.
Between 1947 and 1980, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, formed the backdrop for his extraordinarily fertile visual imagination. Reclusive by choice, he lived in an area close to the city’s harbour called Central where most of the material he used for the images was gleaned from sketches and photographs.
Apart from a brief formative sojourn at art school for a year, he was largely self-educated. He read widely and had discriminating tastes in classical music.
Unaffected by contemporary world trends in art, Page’s world is the world of the surreal, inhabited by characters who are entirely his own and were evolved from his observation of life on the streets and from niches in his background.
The images are laced with mordant wit, a sense of the ridiculous and an encompassing sense of the enigmatic tragedies of life.
Cecil Kerbel met Fred Page in the early 1960s through a cousin who had purchased a Page work. He and his wife Miriam were to visit and retain their friendship with the artist throughout his lifetime, purchasing many works from Page. The couple supported him at local exhibitions and introduced him to collectors, later fostering his relationship with well-known Cape Town art dealer Joe Wolpe, who was to market Page throughout the major period of the artist’s production.
Over a period of thirty years, Cecil collected newspaper cuttings, catalogues, reviews and photographs with a view to publishing a biography on Page. He has always championed Page’s unique vision and maintained that up until now the artist has not been properly appreciated.
Cecil has a legal practice in Port Elizabeth and is married with four children.
Jeanne Wright has an M A in Fine Art from Rhodes University. She taught modern art history for five years at Rhodes. She has exhibited as a ceramic sculptor for many years and was a member of the GAP Group.
As an independent journalist, she has researched and written biographical monologues on Eastern Cape artists and has also written reviews for local newspapers, national art magazines and specialist criticism for the Grahamstown Festival newspaper Cue. She has been a member of the selection committee for the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum and has served as an adjudicator for a number of Eastern Cape art competitions.
Jeanne is widowed, has two married children and lives in Port Elizabeth.
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Fred Page – Artist