Tour the Anton Van Wouw Museum

Anton Van Wouw was a renowned Dutch-born sculptor who spent most of his adult life in South Africa. The Van Wouw Museum in Pretoria, which was his last residence and also his studio, houses superb examples of his sculptures and other artworks, as well as documents and photographs relating to his fascinating life.

Anton Van Wouw was born in Driebergen, near Utrecht in the Netherlands, on 20 November 1862. At the age of 28 he moved to the fast developing city of Pretoria in the Transvaal province of South Africa. It was ten years before this talented sculptor received a commission, and when he did, it proved to be an important one. Industrialist and financier Sammy Marks commissioned Van Wouw to create a huge statue of Paul Kruger, the State President of the South African Republic, who became synonymous with the Boer resistance against the British during the Second Boer War from 1899 to 1902. The statue still dominates Church Square in Pretoria as a reminder of those turbulent pioneering days.

The Van Wouw house was designed by Norman Eaton and was completed in 1938. The face-brick, thatched-roof house with its beautiful ornamental pool and lush garden, reflects Van Wouw’s love of nature. He lived there from 1939 until his death in June 1945. The Van Wouw Museum is managed by the University of Pretoria.

Van Wouw had a great love for his adopted country and spent much time in the wide outdoors, getting to know the indigenous people. Some of his smaller sculptures, which are less formal than his larger works, reflect how deeply he understood and appreciated these people through the way he portrayed their facial expressions and captured their moods. Some of his best works are displayed at the Van Wouw Museum, including The Thinker, The Laughing Basutu, The Shangaan, The Skapu Player, The Hunter Drinking and The Sleeping African.

Van Wouw also developed a great respect for the Boer nation and had an uncanny way of bringing out their tenacity and their hope for the future in his works. One of his most noteworthy sculptures is the figure of a woman incorporated into the Women’s Monument near Bloemfontein. Other monuments he is well known for include a bust of Boer General, General Christiaan de Wet, and a statue of the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, Louis Botha, which is on display in Durban.

Visitors to the Van Wouw Museum in Pretoria come to appreciate that Anton Van Wouw was not only a talented sculptor and artist, but he was a perceptive and compassionate man.