Herman van Nazareth

Herman van Nazareth | Portrait

About the artist

Herman van Nazareth b.1936 in Belgium is a renowned sculptor,
working in bronze and artist, painting in both oils and enamels. In the
early 60’s, he studied in Ghent and Antwerp. He was offered a bursary
to study at the Michaelis Art School in South Africa, and since then he
has divided his time living between Belgium and South Africa.
His experiences of living in Belgium during the war years and arriving in
South Africa at the height of the Apartheid Government regime,
underlined his stylistic development of biting social commentary. His
dislike of abuse of power and inhumanity, and his strong moral stance
against supremacy, Van Nazareth was one of South Africa’s first Protest
artists, setting a torch for the many to follow behind.
He was a member of the celebrated group, the Sestigers, a group of
resistant, eminent Afrikaans authors, poets, artists and philosophers
including Andre Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, Etienne Leroux, Jan Rabie,
Ingrid Jonker, Adam Small, and others. They wished, amongst other
aims, to elevate Afrikaans and confront Apartheid. Most studied abroad
and were influenced by the current post-war trend of existentialism.
Van Nazareth is himself a reclusive personality and his sculptures focus
on primordial, illusive shapes. His figures are remote and
uncommunicative, suggesting timelessness and loneliness. Somewhat
dehumanized, they remain universal reminders of the barbaric cruelty
meted out by so-called civilised humanity.
Van Nazareth has developed a sophisticated technique in finishing his
bronze sculptures, creating apparently ‘unfinished’ surfaces, with a
deceptive suggestion of clay or other mediums. He is not interested in
creating aesthetically pleasing work, but rather wishes to challenge and
create uncertainty for the viewer. He likes to exhibit his figures in open
landscape settings, grouping them together, creating a deep sense of
the savagery of mankind’s origins.
His landscape paintings are lyrically conceived and suggest harmonies
of colour and spatial openness. They offer no specific suggestion of
geographical placement, rather proposing memory and emotion.
His portraits recall the obscurity of his sculptures, neither man nor beast,
but of recognisable human form.

His female figures are often represented as large lumps of pink flesh,
tantalising but inaccessible. There is a tangible sense of cynicism
portrayed in his depiction of powerful male figures.
Van Nazareth has been the recipient of several awards and has been
exhibited widely both in South Africa and Europe. He maintains his
private museum adjoining his home in Belgium. His work is found in
collections worldwide.