With a career spanning over seven decades, Nel Erasmus has produced over thirty solo exhibitions and taken part in more than seventy group exhibitions, and her writing has been widely published.
Between 1985 and 1986 a major travelling retrospective exhibition of her artistic output was organised by the University of the Free State Gallery, and was hosted at prominent institutions including the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. Her work has also featured at a number of other museums over the years, such as the Potchefstroom Art Museum, Sasol Art Museum, Sanlam Art Collection, Oliewenhuis Art Museum, and the Pretoria Art Museum.
In the years since, her work was regularly shown at Cassirer Fine Art in Rosebank, and numerous key galleries such as SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch, Dawid Ras Gallery in Sandton as well as Strauss & Co Art Auctioneers, have featured Nel Erasmus's work in both solo and group exhibitions.
Born 1928, Nel Erasmus obtained a BA in Fine Art at Wits and a NATC at The Witwatersrand Technical College in the early 1950’s.
After teaching in art in Johannesburg and London, she settled in France in 1953, studying at the Academie Ranson, Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Sorbonne. In 1958 she was invited by Michel Seuphor to take part in the exhibition that launched “A Dictionary of Abstract Painting” at Galerie Creuze, Paris.
And in 1964, her work received critical acclaim as she was the only South African artist to be included in Michel Seuphor’s survey of abstraction, Abstract Painting: 50 Years of Accomplishment, from Kadinksy to Pollock.
From 1957 through to 1977, Nel worked at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), first as an assistant to then Director Dr. Anton Hendriks and then later as Director herself, from 1966.
One of the most notable, and notorious, acquisitions of her career, was in 1973 - when Nel acquired Pablo Picasso’s Tête d’Arlequin for JAG. An acquisition that was met with resistance from conservative, apartheid-era South Africa.
In 1991, Nel received the quadrennial Helgaard Steyn Award for Best South African Painting , for a of her's, titled Jazz Baby / Spent Autumn.
Nel's foresight and determination during her years as the first female director of the JAG and later as an art advisor contributed to the addition and acquisition of invaluable artworks to public and corporate collections in South Africa.
In 1977, Nel took to early retirement from JAG, to focus on her work. To this day, Nel happily continues to create and interpret abstraction, as she paints at her home studio in Melville, Johannesburg.
PHOTO CREDIT: Albert Geyser (1970's)
"In a way, painting and drawing for me, is one long process of liberation. Having known darkness - utter darkness - as to what painting may be about and what life is about - I had a starting point. From that confusion, towards a little more light."
- Nel Erasmus
PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Preyser (2016)