Saturday, August 23, 2014

Souvenir Saturday: Shrubsole in Natal: a marine artist at work

Entrance to the Bay of Natal with mail liner approaching:
artist C J Shrubsole

While much about this artist remains obscure, it is known that Shrubsole arrived in Natal (on at least one occasion) aboard the Conway Castle on 8 March 1892. In the passenger list his initials are given as 'C.J.' (possibly an illegible 'T'?) and his age as 25, his occupation "Draughtsman". He travelled 3rd Class. In the column usually reserved for employers or 'sureties' for the incoming passenger, is the name O. ORMSKOLD, Marburg - one of the Norwegian families which settled in that area of the Natal South Coast. 

It may be that this was the start of Shrubsole's career in Natal and presumably his interest in painting marine views of the port began at that time. Though early attempts were amateurish (the ships endearingly wobbly and the Bluff varying considerably in shape from painting to painting) he gradually honed his skills and by the period 1915 to 1925 was producing consistent work in his own recognisable style, often repeating the Bay Entrance as his subject. His 'signature' was a small red-turbanned figure - either seen as an Indian fisherman as in the painting shown above, or in his few landscape works, an African figure in a red headdress. 

Four of his marine views are reproduced in Nigel Hughes' wonderful volume Paintings of the Bay of Natal (published privately Johannesburg 2001). Some of Shrubsole's works are held in the collection of the Old Court House Museum, Aliwal St, Durban and are displayed at the latter's satellite museum, the Old House in St Andrews Street. Included are some intriguing moonlight views of the Bay.

Enquiries to the SHRUBSALL/SHRUBSOLE and variants One Name Study have so far elicited no confirmation of the artist's origins or parentage, nor is it known when he first arrived in South Africa though his employment with Ormskold at Marburg may be significant. Any further information on Shrubsole would be most welcome.

A landscape by Shrubsole recently offered for auction by Clarke's Africana. Note the African figure with signature red headdress. This painting probably dates from the period 1915-1925. Is this the Cape or Natal? 


Unknown said...

A painting of this artist is for sale in an Auction in The Netherlands on the 4th of July 2016 :
Lot no. 67 CJ Shrubsole, 'Baai in Zuid-Afrika', ges. r.o.

Mole said...

Thank you for mentioning this. I have had a look at the image shown on that site - the painting does not seem to be in the best condition and is clearly Cape rather than Natal (which latter is my sphere of interest) I can't find a reserve or any price expected on the pic. Can you?

Mole said...

A respected authority on Africana feels that this is not Shrubsole's best work, but that the location, for your interest, is Camp's Bay or Bakoven, Cape.

Unknown said...

I live in Australia and own a dated and signed 55 cm x65cm oil painting by CJ Shrubsole it was given to my family over 100years ago by relatives in South Africa it is dated 1909 and is of a lake with row boats

Mole said...

Thanks for your comment Trent, that sounds like an unusual subject for Shrubsole - but quite early for him so perhaps he hadn't focused on the Entrance to the Bay and suchlike views in his career at that stage. Is there a turbaned figure anywhere in the painting? It is a 'signature' in Shrubsole's works.

Paul L M said...

Hi Trent
its clear from the painting that it was still early days for the artist ... as is evident in later paintings he started working with the mountains ... mountains are not always so well represented in oil ... I really like Shrubsole's attempts.
Paul L M

Mole said...

Hi Paul thanks for your views on Shrubsole. I like him too but confess I prefer his maritime subjects rather than mountain landscapes. He was learning as he went along, of course, and honed his skills on the topic he seemed to like the most - the Entrance to the Bay of Natal. Best Wishes, Mole