Iziko Museums of South Africawww.iziko.com
Fascinating examples of paintings and decorative arts, of special relevance to the Cape, can be found in the William Fehr Collection. The collection dates from the 17th to the 19th century and generally reflects the furnishings of well-to-do, mainly urban Cape households. The origins of the items range from Europe to the East. Like the diversity of people at the Cape (Khoekhoen, African, Dutch, German, French, English, Indonesian and Indian), so the ceramics, woodwork, textiles, food and spices used at the Cape, reflect the city’s historic position in international trade and politics.
The collection of paintings is a particularly rich source of information on many aspects of the Cape’s history during the colonial period, while at the same time reflecting the outlook and aesthetics of William Fehr as an individual and collector.
Dr William Fehr was born in 1892 in Burghersdorp, Cape. A businessman by profession, he cherished a love of pictorial art. It was in the late 1920s that his attention turned to collecting South African-related paintings, prints and drawings. He later extended his interest to furniture and other objects. Fehr acquired objects and art works at a time when there were still few private collectors and little systematic collecting by local public institutions.
Fehr lent his collection for public exhibition at the Castle in 1952 during the Van Riebeeck Tercentenary Festival. In 1964 the former South African government purchased his oil paintings, furniture, ceramics, metal and glassware. In the following year he donated his unique collection of art works on paper to South Africans, to be placed in Rust en Vreugd, a short distance away from the Castle. Dr Fehr died in 1968.
Views of the Cape settlement, including marine paintings, abound in the William Fehr Collection. Though a reflection of a colonial world view, the works tell us much about aspects of the Cape and its people between the late 17th and first half of the 19th century.
Included on the main floor are art works depicting events relating to British colonial expansion on the Eastern Cape frontier and early depictions of Table Bay and shipping. Of special note in the Council Chamber room is the large canvas by Aernout Smit (1641-1710), showing the bay, the old Fort and the Castle, one of the finest late 17th century views of the Cape. Other works reflect the curious though characteristic distortion of Table Mountain. In the Banqueting Hall upstairs is a range of marine paintings of Table Bay by well-known English artists, interesting portraits of historical personages such as Commander Robert Jacob Gordon and his wife Susanna Nicolet, as well as several views of Cape Town in the 19th century.
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Iziko William Fehr CollectionCastle of Good Hope