Walter Battiss (1906-1982)
Born to an English Methodist family in Somerset East, Battiss became one of South Africas first and most important abstract painters. His formal studies started in 1929 at the Wits Tech art school, followed by a teachers training diploma at Johannesburg Training College and then a BA in fine arts from Unisa. Battiss was a founding member of the New Group. After his first visit to Europe in 1938, he returned and completed his first book, “the amazing bushman”, based on his interest in primitive rock art and San painting. After a visit to Greece in the late 60s and Seychelles in the early 70s, Battiss developed his make-believe world of “Fook Island”. He published 9 books and taught at Pretoria Boys high School for 30 years, after which he became a professor of art at Unisa. His works can be found in major collections and institutions worldwide and he is regarded as one of the most iconic and influential artist South Africa has ever produced.