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About Alice Elahi

South African landscape artist

Alice Elahi established herself as one of South Africa’s leading landscape artists. Her most enduring subject, for over 20 years, was the Namibian landscape – its desert interior and its wild and inaccessible shoreline.

Alice Elahi has said: “The Namib to me is Africa… There is so much in this wonder world of the Namib. My work is really memories of this other Africa, the space, the beauty.“ Alice has painted the plains of the diamond areas of the Sperrgebiet, the pink flats, areas of feldspar rock, plains of quartz crystals the zebra dunes of the Skeleton Coast. With the help of the Nature Conservation she was able to paint in ecologically vulnerable areas to which public access is totally denied.

Other major themes have been seascapes of the Cape coast, the African Bushveld, flower studies and early subjects such as beach studies with figures. She worked in watercolour, mixed media and oils.

The late art critic Johan van Rooyen said (2002): “Elahi may today be considered one of the most accomplished and subtle landscapists in the book of South African art. She expresses most poignantly the temper and temperament of our wilds.”

Her life

Alice Elahi was born in Cape Town in 1926 and studied in London under the Polish expressionist Zdzis Ruszkowski after completing a BSC in Chemistry at UCT. She settled in Pretoria with her Iranian husband and four daughters and lived there for over 50 years until she passed away in 2020.

Her professional career began when she won the New Signatures Award in 1968. That was soon followed by a solo show in Pretoria at the Village Gallery. Her work is now included in public and private collections in South Africa, Namibia and abroad, among them the Pretoria Art Museum, the National Art Gallery Windhoek and the Swakopmund Art Association and various embassies abroad.

Johan van Rooyen also wrote about Alice in the Lantern in 1977, giving an insight into her career in an article entitled Alice Elahi in her Prime. An article by the late Dr Albert Werth, then director of the Pretoria Art Museum, on Alice Elahi's work appears in Our Art 4.

Alice held an annual exhibition at her studio gallery in Pretoria for over 24 years, and in 2015 she held a large retrospective at the Pretoria Art Museum, which was accompanied by the publication of a book about her and her art, Alice Elahi - Landscape Through an Artist's Eyes. This was followed in late 2015/early 2016 with a show focusing on her seascapes at the Irma Stern Gallery in Cape Town, the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch, as well as the Wiliam Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley. Other important exhibitions include her 1988 retrospective at the University of Pretoria, as well as many solo shows in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Namibia.

© Estate Alice Elahi