Prof Josua Andries Nell

It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Associate Professor Emeritus Josua Andries Nell in Pretoria/Tshwane on Friday 24 March 2017.

Jos, as he was known to most, was born on 10 August 1935 in Keetsmanshoop, Namibia where he was raised. Jos Nell entered the Rhodes Art School in 1955 at the age of 20 where he studied painting under Professor Cecil Todd who was trained at the Royal Academy of Art in Britain. He graduated with a Diploma in Fine Art with distinctions in 1958. In 1959 he joined the Department of Fine Art at Rhodes as a Junior Lecturer and dedicated himself to the department for the rest of his working life. In 1963 he progressed from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer status, finally becoming an Associate Professor in 1983. He acted as Head of Department from 1982-1984 until the appointment of Professor Robert Brooks. He retired from Rhodes in 1990, receiving a special award for long service from the University.

Professor Nell was known as a gifted and generous teacher, and a talented artist in his own right. He was a founder member of the Grahamstown Group, which was formed by Professor Brian Bradshaw in 1964. This group was the first cohesive South African group of artists to exhibit work on a national platform becoming widely known for it’s mostly landscape subject matter, and often expressive impastoed painting style. The prolific group exhibited regularly until its disbandment in 1976.

Jos Nell travelled extensively in the desert regions of his birthplace, Namibia, and this informed the subject matter of virtually all his large paintings – often reflecting the arid vastness of the region and capturing a penetrating sense of place. He was also a excellent draughtsman and skilled craftsman. Versatile in a variety of media including etching, he moved into sculpture and became one of the first sculptors to experiment with bone. Working by preference often in natural and found materials he was also a skilled ceramist, wood and stone carver, and bronze caster.

Prof Nell held seven solo exhibitions but elected to exhibit mostly on group exhibitions within the Eastern Cape and nationally. These included the Grahamstown Group, GAP (Grahamstown, Alice and Port Elizabeth), EPSAC (PE) and the annual National Arts Festival Exhibitions held by the Rhodes University Fine Art Department. He was selected for all four of the Cape Town Triennial exhibitions held from 1982 – 1991, and his work is held in the permanent collections of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum (PE), the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Polokwane Art Museum, the Northern Transvaal Regional Art Gallery, Pietersburg (Polokwane Museum), the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley as well as the Rembrandt collection (Stellenbosch), the Durban Art Gallery, the Wooltru collection and the Universities of Port Elizabeth, Fort Hare and Rhodes.

Prof Jos Nell is survived by his son Jan, daughter Lisa, grandson Rhys, sister Marietha and brother Attie.




Dominic Thorburn


Head of Printmedia

Last Modified: Sun, 09 Apr 2017 11:04:14 SAST