On Sunday 15 May at St George’s College, Penny Kirkman will be giving a talk on
The National Art Gallery and its First Director, Frank McEwan
For almost two decades last century, our National Gallery, in remote Central Africa, took the world of art by storm, placing
Rhodesia firmly on the map in difficult times.
In 1954, the newly appointed Board of the Rhodes National Gallery dispatched one of its trustees to Europe to seek advice
on the design and implementation of a new gallery for the Federation, and was repeatedly pointed in the
direction of Frank McEwen.
Vastly over-qualified but looking for a new challenge, he accepted the position of first Director of the Rhodes National Gallery,
bringing with him years of experience and his close friendships with Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, Henry Moore, museum heads and curators.
His unusual arrival in the country – 30,000 miles zig-zigging across the Atlantic in his yacht Penelope Elle – ignited local interest in this
charismatic man-of-action whose love-life would also set tongues wagging.
McEwan pulled off a magnificent coup, and borrowed paintings worth over a million pounds to cover the bare walls of the
new gallery for the Inaugural Exhibition, which was opened by the Queen Mother.
He started a Workshop, and his unskilled students, mainly gallery employees, ex-policemen, waiters and peasant farmers,
carved and painted under his encouragement and direction. Their work was so extraordinary it attracted universal attention, with millionaires and
collectors beating a path to the Gallery doors.
The Gallery began exporting its own work to the art world’s major centres – New York, London and Paris.
Under severe financial duress during UDI, the Gallery would have collapsed had it not been for McEwen’s promotional tours and exhibitions.
This talk will serve to remind us of this remarkable beacon in the history of 20th century art.
Venue: St George’s College Beit Hall
Date: Sunday 15 May 2016
Chairman Mash branch