Frans David Oerder

(7th April 1867 – 15th July 1944)

Frans was a versatile artist who was of great importance in the development of a characteristic South African art. 

Frans was born in Rotterdam, Holland, on the 7th April 1876.  He received his first art training at the academy for fine arts in this city, after which he also studied in Italy and Brussels.  

In 1890 he emigrated to South Africa, where he started working as a house painter.  Later he entered the service of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg Maatschappij and he helped to paint the poles white along the Delagoa Bay railway line.  In this way he became familiar with eastern Transvaal scenery.  In 1894 he became art teacher at a girls secondary school in Pretoria and opened a studio in Church Street East.  When the Anglo Boer war broke out in 1899 he joined the Boer forces as official war artist.  Striking sketches and paintings from this troubled era may be seen in the war museum in Bloemfontein, the Afrikana museum in Johannesburg and the art collection of the University of Pretoria.  After the war he was commissioned to paint several pictures, including several portraits such as that of General Louis Botha, and a painting of Pretoria.

In 1908 he returned to the Netherlands because of economic circumstances.  He settled in Amsterdam and in 1910 married Gerda Pitlo, a flower painter.  His interest then spread to still life painting, and especially to flower studies.  His famous magnolias reached the highest sales figure of still life reproductions in the world.  This work is now in the possession of a Johannesburg collector.

In 1938 he returned to Pretoria with his wife.  He held various exhibitions and undertook many painting tours through the country.  He died in Pretoria on the 15th July 1944.

On the 22nd February 1985 the South African post office released a set of special stamps featuring paintings by Frans. The issue comprises four stamps, a date stamp, commemorative envelope with miniature sheet, and a set of postcards. 

11c stamp, Still life: to reflections, Oil on canvas, 79 cm x 105 cm

In this still life, a collection of domestic objects, the painter places the emphasis on textures and tonality.  The quality of the color and texture of copper and brass, pewter, and fine china, contrasted with leather bound books, are rendered particularly well and are emphasized by their reflections be in the mirror like tabletop.  The shades of brown, orange and yellow are typical of the European academic realists of whom Frans was one.

25c stamp, Ladies in a garden, Oil on board, 28.5 cm x 36.5 cm

“Ladies in a garden” is a subject painted by Frans on various occasions.  This intimate scene clearly shows that the sojourn in South Africa and the Impressionism in Europe had a strong influence on Frans’s work.  The somber tints of the academic realism are absent here.  The paint is applied in fresh, light brush strokes, bathing the objects in light rather than emphasizing detail.  The rich, warm yellows and greens under the branches of the trees and the luminous creamy white of the dress materials evoke the saturated tones of a late afternoon. 

30c Stamp, Still life with lobster, Oil on canvas, 80 cm by 99 cm 

In this painting common household articles and a variety of food differing in form and color are combined harmoniously to form a convincing design.  A pretty little magnolia bouquet and the corner of a painting in the background are used to set these earthy objects (a bottle of salad oil, and little jar of mustard, a lobster) above the mundane. 

50c stamp, Still life with marigolds, Oil on canvas, 80 cm by a 100 cm

 The still life with marigolds is one of Frans’s most successful floral studies.  The large, heavy, round vase is placed centrally on a Persian carpet, which subtly repeats the colors of the flowers.  The eye is discreetly led from a small group of fairly big, heavy flowers, along thin stems to buds, single flowers, flowers seen directly from the front, and flowers turned away and partly in shadow.  The flowers are painted in an exuberant orange, which imparts a freshness and spontaneity to the entire painting.


SA Nat Gal, CT; Jhb Art Gal; Pta Art Mus; Durban Art Gal; William Humphreys Gal, Kimberly; King George VI Gal, PE; African Mus, Jhb; Albany Mus, Grahamstn; Bloemftn War Mus; Rembrandt Art Foundtn; Sanlam; Wits Univ Gals.

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