Johanna Ellaphie Ward-Hilhorst (1920-1994)

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Botanical Sketch

Botanical Sketch

Johanna Ellaphie Ward-Hilhorst was a noted South African botanical artist. She received her early education in Pretoria. After matriculating from Pretoria Girls’ High School, she started work in 1939 as a cartographer in the Survey Department of the Witwatersrand Gold Mines. At the end of WWII, she moved to the Netherlands to study watercolour painting under the eye of her uncle, Gerhardus Hilhorst, a distinguished natural history artist.

Returning to South Africa, she worked in the advertising world as a freelance commercial artist in Cape Town and Johannesburg until her retirement in 1970, when she finally had the time to indulge her talents as a botanical artist. Since she always had a love and fascination for the genus Pelargonium, she set about illustrating all the known species. This massive project resulted in the publication of three volumes in 1977, 1981 and 1988. The entire collection of the original 314 watercolours and 160 habit sketches in pencil was acquired by the Brenthurst Library in Johannesburg in 1989. Recently completed plates of Pelargonium were found in the studio after her tragic murder.

Pelargonium Punctatum

Pelargonium Punctatum

She was a prolific worker, finishing over 800 botanical watercolour paintings in 24 years. Other genera on which she worked included Sarcocaulon, Haemanthus, Rhus, Plectranthus, Hessea, Strumaria, as well as Gasteria,Serruria and Diascia. She was in great demand by botanists to illustrate plants from their particular fields of interest. Forty-two of her paintings were published in Flowering Plants of Africa, and she also made frequent contributions to Bothalia, Aloe, SA Journal of Botany, National Cactus & Succulent Journal, Cactus & Succulent Journal (USA) and Veld & Flora.

Examples of her work are in the permanent collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, in Pittsburgh, P.A., the Shirley Sherwood Collection and many other important private collections. Still wondering about an African painting in your family collection? Contact us… it could be by Johanna Ellaphie Ward-Hilhorst.


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