ARTicle
Retrospective 1996

Obituary :
 Carl Büchner
 (1921 -  2003)


26 May 2003 by Andries Loots

South Africa lost one of our most-loved artists, Carl Büchner, who sadly died alone and poor in the beginning of May 2003 at the age of 82 after a very long illness. 

Carl Büchner was born in Somerset East on the 24 August 1921. The family moved to Johannesburg in 1928 where he matriculated and in 1940 he started his studies in History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand. The following year he switched to Fine Arts at the Witwatersrand Technical Collage School of Arts and Crafts under Eric Byrd and Maurice Van Essche. He obtained his National Teachers diploma in 1944 and taught at several schools in Gauteng and at the Pretoria Art Centre with Walter Battiss and others. 

His fist solo-Exhibition was in 1954 and after being appointed Art Inspector for the Cape Education Department in Grahamstown, he moved back to the Cape. He led a quiet life during which he participated in various exhibitions locally and abroad. In 1964 he went on a study tour to Europe and in 1970 he retired from teaching to start his career as a full time artist.

Carl always referred to his paintings as his children and it was with his retrospective Exhibition in 1996 at the Strydom Gallery in George that he said : "I am very excited to see so many of my children that were in foster care for so long all together once again…. " The reason why his work is so popular with collectors could be the fact that the works are calm and yet full of emotion, never carried a message of protest and yet touched the onlooker. "These were works of mystery and wonder "( J.H. Giliomee, 1996, Opening speech : Strydom Gallery, Carl Büchner - Retrospective ) Although the works are full of emotion, they are never emotional. There is a subtle undertone of happiness present. 
He was best known for the portraits of children, young men, flower sellers and harlequins. The harlequin formed a very strong theme in his work. Carl saw the harlequin as a symbol of each and every person, with something to hide from the outside world, behind a white mask. Although these harlequins were dressed in colourful costumes, they were never funny; instead they were observing the silly, mad world. 

Private Collection
Private Collection His portraits were mostly of simple people in ordinary clothing, against a natural background and mostly of men. This was in stark contrast to the female portrait, which was painted in brighter colours and in many cases placed in an interior or in a landscape, not isolated as in the male portraits.
It was very clear that Büchner enjoyed painting Still life, he experimented with abstraction, contrasting colours and textures.  Private Collection
Private Collection His landscapes and lesser-known seascapes, were subtle, but even in these works there was always an unseen human presence. In Büchners early works the influence of this teacher Van Essche was clearly apparent but with a subtle palette. A resemblance to the work of Domsaitis can also be seen in the simplicity of the landscape, still life and figurative paintings as well as in the use of colour. 

His works are taken up into numerous important collections including:

South African National Gallery
Pretoria Art Museum
William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley
Hester Rupert Art Museum, Graaff-Reinet
Rembrandt Art Foundation, Stellenbosch
University of South Africa Collection
Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg
University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein
SASOL Collection, Johannesburg
William Annadale Art Gallery, Lichtenburg
Pietersburg Collection 

Everybody who knew him as a very gentle man, will sadly miss Carl Büchner.

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