Walter Edward Westbrook (1921-2015), an artist famous for his watercolour landscapes, had the ability to capture mood and atmosphere, whether painting a portrait, still life or his signature landscapes. There is a calm serenity about his work - a tranquillity that is seldom found. From the subtle colours of South Africa’s Northern Cape and Namibian desert landscape to the richer palette of Europe, Westbrook's work continues to capture the imagination and inspire.

 

Walter Edward Westbrook self portrait 1970s

Born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1921, Walter Westbrook took up art at a young age. He studied art under Walter Battiss in Pretoria, and held his first one-man show in Pretoria in 1947. Though not recognised as an official war artist, Westbrook continued to paint throughout his war years in North Africa and Italy, and was taken under the wing of Italian artist, Francisco Caprioli in Italy. A selection of his works from the war period can be viewed at the South African National Museum of Military History.

 

Walter Edward Westbrook was a serving soldier during World War 2

Westbrook became a fulltime artist in 1970 - painting landscapes of the Northern Cape, Kalahari Desert and Namibia. Walter Westbrook, it can be claimed, put the arid Northern Cape on the art world map.

 

Walter Edward Westbrook painting Northern Cape Lanscape 1970s

 

Walter Edward Westbrook painting in the South African desert

His work spans the rich creative and culturally diverse art period of the 1940s to 1990s in South Africa. In the late 1990s he moved to the UK, adopting the Kent countryside and English Channel as his new subject matter. He visited Sabina in Italy every year between 2005 and 2009, capturing the landscapes and villagescapes he fell in love with when he was an escaped POW in 1943 during WWII. In his latter years he also rediscovered his passion for portraits, figures and still lives. Westbrook would be found painting in his studio most days, or out in the countryside in the summer with his pencils and sketch book. Of his best works produced in the last few years of his life. His works are on public display at William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley, who are caretakers of an extensive collection of his paintings and sketches spanning seven decades.

Walter Edward Westbrook and wife Hilda in Sabina Italy in 2009

Walter Westbrook’s contemporaries in the South African art world include Alexis Preller, Gregoire Boonzaaier, Alexander Podlashuc, Mike Edwards, Gerard de Leeuw, Walter Battiss, Alex Rose-Innis, Bettie Cillier-Barnard, Edouard Villa, Eben van der Merwe, Father Frans Claerhout, Iris and Stefan Ampenberger ..

 

 

Walter Edward Westbrook painting in Italy

 

 

Walter Edward Westbrook in May 2009 painting hilltop town of Toffia in Sabina Italy

 

Talking about his art, Walter Westbrook said:

”The things that motivate me are the everyday experiences we react to, like space, atmosphere and the dramatic play of nature, or its calm and peaceful moods. All these play an important part in the experience and interpretation of the landscape.

I do not want to create a new and unreal world that I do not recognise, feel or see. To be part of this amazing world is in itself a privilege. The variety and ever-changing moods never cease to inspire and motivate me. It is the world I know and want to record as I see and experience it: a world of incomparable beauty, totally unpredictable and exciting - new every day.

I enjoy the moods and the changes throughout the day, together with the reactions, habits and responses of people in different situations. All this inspires me. To say something about everyday things that are often taken for granted: things that are part of everyday conversation – everyday observation. So why not paint it?

I have no desire to paint the unreal – things that are not understood – just to be different or “with it”, or to invent a world that does not exist. I need to express and interpret what I feel and experience – to be personally involved with the subject. Not copying, but expressing it as I see and feel it.

At one time or other, all of us stand in awe and marvel at the unexpected dramatic display spread before us. It is the driving force that triggers us to record the moment that could be lost forever.”

 

 

 

Walter Edward Westbrook exhibiting in 1980s. Standing in front of portrait of his son Lionel Westbrook

 

"The impression which has remained with me, is one of calm, beauty and pure direct vision." Alexis Preller – wrote about Westbrook’s art.