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Tuesday, 26 August 2014 08:32
Untitled Document

Eric Bolsmann

Recently I came across a landscape painting signed by Frans Oerder and the name Wapadrand was written by the auctioneer in large letters at its back. I had to identify the painting and include the details in a book on art in Pretoria to be published shortly.

Information on the Dutch Frans Oerder, who lived in Pretoria at the turn of the 19th century, and again from 1939 until his death in 1944, is easy to obtain. Although no date appears on the painting, it is not difficult to guess that he must have painted the scene during his second stay in our town.

But why can’t artists be more specific? It would be nice to know the exact location of the scene, which is now, more than 64 years later, almost impossible to ascertain. Such details would be good to know for owners of works of art and are certainly of value to researchers and historians alike. Also, if there is certainty about the date and the location, one would imagine that the painting will be more valuable than a comparable one without a pedigree.

When writing about the painting, I realised that in Oerder’s time, the Wapadrand scene on the slopes of the Bronberg mountain range was far removed from the boundary of the capital city.

The green vegetation in the foreground of the painting indicates some farming activity. Between this luscious growth and what appears to be a mass of the now threatened Rocky Highveld grass is the Moreleta Spruit winding its way north. A homestead with a smoking chimney is depicted on the lower part of the mountain range.

Oerder’s Wapadrand painting

Today Oerder’s tranquil country setting is part of the suburb whose name may be translated as wagon path ridge. Wapadrand boasts with the largest variety of indigenous trees found in any suburb east of Pretoria. It is also the home of the endangered Juliana’s golden mole, which ranks with the black rhino in the category of threats.

One may wonder what inspired Oerder to paint the scene divided roughly in clearly defined horizontal sections – the dark brown foreground with the green crown of planted vegetation atop, the Highveld grass with the yellow ochre coloured mountain range beyond, and the pale sky above. The greenish brown leaves of the trees stretching from the right towards the centre of the canvas break up what could otherwise cause the composition to appear monotonous.

I was satisfied that I had established some “order” among layers of the landscape somewhere in Wapadrand and I was about to close the subject when, lo and behold, an acquaintance was adamant that the scene did not represent Wapadrand at all.

“What you see is near Daspoortrand”, he said, and pointed at the foreground of the picture, telling me that it is the Apies River. I had seen the painting briefly, and when I tried to identify the photograph of it, I did not realise that the “farmland” could be a stream or a small dam.

Further inspection left me satisfied that it is the Moreleta Spruit flowing through Wapadrand. But I could be wrong. Let’s blame Oerder for this.




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