Constance Greaves

Greaves was renowned for her work in a field now seen as peculiar to the colonial period. This was the ‘native study’. The genre emerged in South Africa at this time as the result of efforts by the likes of Leo François (1870–1938), President of the Natal Society of Artists (NSA), to create a school of figure painting as an antidote to the prevalence of landscape in South African painting. An incentive for this appeared when Karl Gundelfinger, a Durban patron, established the Gundelfinger Prize, worth 20 guineas, for the best painting of ‘native life’ exhibited at the NSA in Durban. Greaves, who worked in watercolour, won the prize in 1930. She was also a frequent exhibitor on the SA Society of Artists exhibitions in Cape Town. Born in Brighton, she studied at the Brighton School of Art. She lived between England and South Africa, but finally returned in 1930 to settle, at first in the Transkei, and then near Richmond in Natal. She travelled widely in South Africa, the then Rhodesia and Tanganyika, making many sketches for her paintings. She drew quickly with her brush and this gave her paintings a ‘rare simplicity and detachment’.1 This was a quality lacking in the more laboured work in this genre by others. Her overall approach was, however, essentially conservative and descriptive. Prints and postcards of her work served to increase her popularity. Demand for her originals caused a decline in their quality and her technique. After 1945 she painted from memory rather than the model, emphasising the more decorative and sentimental aspects of her subject.

Hayden proud

  1. Melanie Hillebrand.1986. Art and Architecture in Natal, 1910–1940. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, p.133.

Born Brighton, Sussex, England 1882; died Cala, Ciskei, 1966. Studies Brighton Art School and Sussex Womens’ Art Club. Exhibitions Exhibitor on South African Society of Artists (SASA)-related exhibitions c.1898–1950: 1919: SASA Art Exhibition., Minor Hall, City Hall, Darling St.; 1931: 1st Annual Exhibition of Contemporary National Art, South African Art Gallery (SANG) with SASA. 1940: SASA 37th Annual Exh., Argus Gallery, Burg St. Cape Town. 1941: SASA 38th Annual Exhibition., SANG. 1942: SASA 39th Annual Exh., SANG. 1942: SASA Winter Exh. (venue not stated). 1943: SASA 40th Annual Exh., (in comb. with Natal Society of Artists) SANG. 1943: SASA Winter Exh., Maskew Miller Gallery. 1944: 41st Annual Exh. of SA Contemp. Art, org. by SASA with other Societies, SANG. 1945: 42nd Annual Exh. of Contemp. SA Art, org. by SASA, Maskew Miller Gallery. 1945: SASA Members’ Exh., Ashbey’s Gall., Church St. 1946: 43rd Annual Exh. of Contemp. SA Art, arr. by SASA with Natal Society of Artists, Maskew Miller Gallery. 1946: SASA Members’ Exh., Ashbey’s Gall., Church St., 6–20. 1947: 44th Annual Exh. of Contemp. SA Art, arr. by SASA, Maskew Miller Gallery. 1948: SASA 45th Annual Exh., Maskew Miller Gallery. Collections Museum Afrika, Johannesburg; Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town; Durban Art Gallery; Queenstown Art Gallery; Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London; University of Cape Town.