Lawson Collection 

Archdeacon of Kuruman and Mission Priest of Griqualand West for over 46 years, George Mervyn Lawson was born in the Channel Islands and obtained a BA degree before emigrating to South Africa. During the many years he had charge of his wide district he built up a series of missions, encouraging the indigenous people to build their own churches in their own way.  

In many instances he financed them out of his own meagre stipend. He was a familiar figure as he rode throughout the area of Griqualand West on a grey horse and covered 1674 kilometres every two months. Following the great rains of 1925 his horse died of horse sickness and Mr Lawson had no means of transport for three months. He then purchased a Cape cart, had it fitted with Ford wheels and inflated tyres, used a span of donkeys to pull it and so continued his ministry. He always seemed to have on hand the building of some new Church which meant continual traveling with short spells at home at Huisten Bosch near Paphuil. He built up a network of missions and gave himself utterly and completely to the work he felt called to undertake.  

Archdeacon Lawson was himself an artist and his black and white sketches were characteristic of the man. They gave a clear and vivid impression of the scenes that he observed. There were sketches of worshippers, although the Archdeacon never sketched the human figure with the power of Bishop Gore-Brown. 

This Lawson Collection of 247 original drawings and engravings was donated to the Kimberley Library by Archdeacon Lawson in December 1939. French, Dutch, Flemish, English and Italian painters are represented in the collection. They were selected by him from dealers’ catalogues and usually took six months to arrive at the Papkuil Post Office from overseas.  

At the time of the arrival of these drawings and engravings from Europe to the dry and harsh climate of the Northern Cape there was no awareness or practice of conservation methods as we know them today, simply because they did not exist. The drawings which date from the 15th to the early 19th centuries, were all made at a time when good quality long fibred handmade paper was I abundance and this is why the works have survived. Indications of the age of the drawings are edge tears, missing corners and the use of iron-gall ink which reminded popular with artists until the 19th century. Unfortunately, this particular ink destroyed the cellulose in the paper and caused ink corrosion. Today the range of conservation treatments of Masters Drawings is limited and irreversible changes should be avoided. 

The expression “Old Master Drawing” can be traced back to the late 16th and 17th centuries when works of Renaissance artists such as Raphael, Correggio and Tintoretto were being collected. Drawings, of the Old Masters were admired for their beauty and provided a means for studying the methods and style of these draughtsmen who changed the course of art. In the 18th century new printing processes such as engraving and mezzotint printing developed and made it possible for works to reach a far wider audience.  

This collection of original drawings and engravings was donated to the William Humphreys Art Gallery in August 1991, where they are stored under optimum environmentally controlled conditions and are on display for limited periods of time in order to preserve them for the enjoyment of future generations.  

Dr Max Greenberg Bequest 

Dr Max Greenberg, a respected and dedicated figure in the art world of Johannesburg, was born in Kimberley in 1886. He was educated at Christian brothers’ College in that city and later received his medical training at Edinburgh University, Scotland. 

Because of his past association with the Diamond City, Dr Greenberg bequeathed to the citizens of Kimberley fifty outstanding early South African paintings and five sculptures. It is known that he was not only a collector of silverware, glassware, furniture and objet d’art.  

After his death in 1951, the late Dr Anton Hendricks, then Curator of the Johannesburg Art Gallery and Mrs Doris Algie, representing the citizens of Kimberley, selected from his large collection a representative selection of works by renowned South African artists.  

At the time of Dr Greenberg’s death, the building of the William Humphreys Art Gallery was merely in the embryonic stage and consequently the collection was displayed in the Kimberley Public Library. Upon completion of the Art Gallery in 1952, the late Mr William Benbow Humphreys, founder of the Gallery, offered the citizens of Kimberley a permanent home for their heritage. The Art Gallery Council has since become the official custodian of the collection.
The collection which contains several nationally acclaimed little gems, formed the nucleus of the Gallery’s South African collection.  

Kimberley is indeed indebted to Dr Max Greenberg for his public-spirited gesture.  
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