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Rene Goosen

Eloff, Zakkie

Zacharias (Zakkie) Eloff (1925 – 2004) was painter and graphic artist of wildlife, Zakkie Eloff worked in oil, watercolour, ink, wash, monotype and etching. He studied at Pretoria Boys High School under Walter Battiss (qv) and at Witwatersrand Technical College, under Maurice van Essche (qv), James Gardner (qv) and Phyllis Gardner (qv). In 1957 Zakkie Eloff studied graphic techniques at the Central School of Art, London; etching under Dolf Rieser (qv).

Between 1958 and 1962 Zakkie taught at Pretoria Technical College and from 1961 until 1962 he taught at University of Pretoria. He has illustrated various books. Between 1962 and 1968 Zakkie worked as a Game Ranger in the Etosha Game Reserve, Namibia. From 1969 he has lived and worked in the Eastern Transvaal Lowveld.

The following is an extract from: Berman’s Art and Artists of South Africa by Esmé Berman (Southern Book Publishers: 1993). A man of the veld, at his most comfortable in wide-open spaces. 1958-61 lecturer in painting at Pretoria Tech; married art student René van Zyl. 1962: escaped from the city to become a game warden at Etosha Pan, Namibia; the content of his paintings and etchings reflects his absorption in wild-life and veld; minute observations of animal appearance and habit recorded in thousands of sketches.

Many dramatic experiences in Namibia, including loss of home and possessions in a devastating fire. 1969: moved with wife and three small children to White River, Eastern Gauteng, adjoining Kruger National Park; frequent visits to that and other game reserves. 1972: wildlife panels for VIP rooms at O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. 1975: invited to work in the experimental medium of ‘resin engraving’. Public Collections: Pretoria Art Museum; Ann Bryant Gallery, East London; Hester Rupert Art Museum, Germany; William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberly; UNISA.

The work of Zakkie Eloff was not often seen on exhibition during his seven-year retreat into the Namibian bush, but even during the decade following his first show his output of painting was receding before his increased interest in the graphic techniques. Where his canvases presented boldly-stated views of animals and plants within the landscape, in his etchings and aquatints he tended to concentrate on a single motif. His style in these is linear –minimal – conveying the stance, the character and movement of the particular beast portrayed. During 1961 Eloff was authorized to pull the posthumous limited edition of linocut prints from JH Pierneef’s blocks, for archive purposes. Thereafter the blocks were destroyed.

The change in environment and lifestyle occasioned by his move to the Eastern Transvaal brought about a gradual change in Zakkie Eloff work. Although hid acutely sensitive linear etching and pen drawing remained the most impressive area of his achievement, his painting benefited from subtle adjustments of technique which introduced a lighter and more graceful touch. The paintings of the Seventies were carried out in fresh, chromatic colour applied with short broken brushstrokes. The resultant lively impressionistic surfaces contrasted favourably with the more stolid forms and harsher colouring of earlier canvases.