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Wessel Marais (1935 – 2009) was born in Magaliesburg, but he grew up in Welverdient, near Potchefstroom. His father was part local dignitary, confidant & mainstay of small town activity. He was also a minor poet who had a profound influence on his son, and believed that a man’s inner presence must express itself in some creative form.
Wessel Marais’ childhood was spent in various small towns. He recalls living on large plots covered in cosmos flowers & criss-crossed by railway lines. Wessel was introduced to drawing by an older friend called Simon, using the medium of sticks & sand. Wessel’s favourite subject matter was trains, which he drew travelling at great speed – upside down!
On leaving school, Wessel’s main ambition was to be a pilot. However he became a postmaster, just like his father. He quickly became bored with the humdrum 9 – 5 jobs & took classes in commercial art in the evenings. This, says Wessel, gave life a whole new meaning, and soon little drawings were being executed in the Post Office & inevitably getting mixed up with “official documents”. Before jibes became formal notes of censure, Wessel left the Post Office to work in a shop.
This budding South African artist took lessons after-hours from Zakkie Eloff, the famous SA wildlife & landscape artist. Wessel was soon drawing inspiration from Erich Meyer’s landscapes, and the whole range of the masters of French impressionism, for his landscape art. While his work improved rapidly, and he found willing buyers both within SA & abroad, Wessel considered his art to be “meddlesome”.
Italian painter, Giuseppe Cattaruzza, eventually summoned Wessels to his Pretoria Gallery & set about honing his skills. Buoyed by this success, Wessel took the risky decision to paint full time. Supported by his wife Christine, successful exhibitions followed in all the major cities within SA.
After a long & fruitful life, Wessel Marais sadly passed away in April 2009.
Wessel Marais studies of landscapes, city scenes & flowers are full of life. Cape Coons pulsating with boisterousness & the joy of living, and children playing in gay abandon, have become sought-after collectors’ items throughout SA.
Wessel believed that a skilled artist must be able to interpret any subject matter successfully on canvas. His personal preferences were to portray everyday scenes with an innate playful, abandon & poetic intuition. His ability to portray the captivating play of light & shadow in vibrant colours was a gift, which is highly appreciated by his many admirers.