You have found the site for South-African artist Nils Landmark Solberg. These pages are updated as new artworks are discovered so please come back soon!
Nils was born in 1920 at Melmoth, Zululand, the son of Norwegian missionaries. He went to school in Eshowe and showed a great gift for drawing. At age 16 he left to train at a Durban Commercial Art firm, while studying part time at Natal Technical College. In 1939 he won the College’s Emma Smith scholarship which would enable him to study in Europe but this was to be delayed seven years by the war.
In 1943 he was a Sherman tank co-driver in the Sixth South African Armoured Division where he became Art Editor for 'The Sable', the Division's official magazine. He actually managed to form an art class in the Egyptian desert, producing many watercolours from a one and elevenpenny child's paint box. It was said he was the only trooper to tell three generals what to do. Lt. Gen. Pierre van Rynevald, Maj. Gens. H.J. Klopper and W.H. Poole all sat for Solberg portraits.
In 1946 Nils was able to take up the scholarship and studied for two years at London's Regent Street Polytechnic Art School. The Headmaster wrote to him after he had left "...thanks for, by coming here, introducing us to the best student we have had from S.A., and one who, we are confident, will make a mark on the painting of his country."
While in London he met his future wife, Ann Cozens-Hardy, and often visited her home in Letheringsett, Norfolk, where he painted many pictures, including "Letheringsett Mill", which was exhibited at the 1947 Royal Academy exhibition. In 1948 Nils married Ann and they went to Italy where he studied in the British School in Rome, before sailing for Africa, arriving in Durban where he began work as a commercial artist. However all his spare time was devoted to landscape, still life and portrait painting.
In 1951 he helped found the Bantu, Indian and Coloured Art Group (BICA) which he taught regularly. Two years later he held a successful one-man exhibition in Durban, and a year later had the honour of becoming a F.R.S.A. He was elected President of the Natal Society of Artists but was already falling ill to Hodgkin's Disease. He struggled on with great courage until he was too weak to hold a paintbrush. His last painting "Ann with 'cello" was completed just before he died on April 28th 1955, a few days before his 35th birthday.
On May 2nd the "Nils Solberg Goodwill Exhibition" was opened by the Mayor of Durban to honour his memory and help his dependants. About one hundred paintings were donated by local artists. A friend wrote: "Nils' work will keep him alive among us all but as well as a great artist he was a great man, and I shall always feel that I have been privileged in knowing him." Ann and their children Karen, Graham and Richard Nils returned to live in Norfolk.
more information or if you own a piece of Solberg art that is not listed
here, or even if you have anything to share about him we'd be pleased
to hear from you - many thanks to those who have. Please contact me
(Nils Solberg (jnr)) here