The founding of the South African National Gallery (SANG) in 1871 during the British colonial period initially established an emphasis on British art, as well collecting works of art from South Africa’s other “founder” nations, such as the Netherlands. Almost all of the works of art in these collections were acquired either by presentation or bequest.
Early benefactors such as the South African-born Alfred de Pass added works by British and international artists between 1926 and 1949. The gallery’s holdings were expanded by gifts from Sir Edmund and Lady Davis in 1935-38, and the Sir Abe Bailey Bequest, which has been on long-term loan to the SANG since 1946. Over the years, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, more modern works augmented and updated the British collection.
The British holdings include works by JWM Turner, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, George Stubbs, Daniel Maclise, William Orchardson, Edward Ward, Edward Burne-Jones, George Fredrick Watts, Charles Shannon, Charles Ricketts, Frank Brangwyn, CRW Nevinson, Paul Nash, Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Gillian Ayres, Alan Davie, Ronal Kitaj and Gary Wragg.
It was De Pass who initiated the collecting of work by South African painters and sculptors from the 1930s, a policy which was pursued more vigorously from the early 1950s, thanks to the State making a small acquisitions budget available from 1949. This saw the purchase of modern South African works by Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller, Irma Stern and others.