The death of a clown:  Jean Rochefort  (1930 – 2017)

There is poignancy in the death of a comedian, one who made people laugh for more than 50 years.  I remember him in films I saw as a child in the rural outback of South Africa.

There is grief in the media, retrospectives and lavish praise for his achievement.  It is the ironic twinkle I remember, eyes that seek an accomplice to mischief.  He was a slender man with a nonchalant elegance which made him particularly French.

                  As Don Quixote

A journalist has selected film titles that serve as epitaphs for him:  The Great Blond with a black moustache;  Salut l’Artiste; We’re all going to Paradise – a few from the 150 films that he made.  A frequent visitor to the Cannes Film Festival, he himself was awarded three Césars in his time.  Where to begin with a career this rich?  The history of comedy in France will hold him in high esteem.

In one film he finds himself on a horse that he can’t control.  The animal leaps with him over the startled picnickers at a table in the forest and plunges into the river.  The horse with him still in the saddle swims past a flabberghasted man in a boat.  “Bonjour,” he says offhand to the man.  A moment of great absurdity.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017













The Louvre: three works

Visitors to Paris usually make sure that they see Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.  With the museum, you quickly realise that you can’t take in everything in a short time.  People zoom in on the Mona Lisa, perhaps the Venus de Milo and a few other things.  We can begin expressing our admiration for what we see, but we won’t reach the end of doing that, not in one lifetime.

The first thing that struck me about the Mona Lisa was the size.  In the thousands of copies that one sees, the image in our mind seems to grow larger.  For brief seconds, I went up to it, seeing the filigree cracks in the paint before I was firmly told to stand back by a guard.  She is still there, after 500 years, intriguing and fascinating her viewers.  I looked at the river stream behind her and no, I couldn’t see whether it was flowing upwards.  And is that woman smiling?  She could be, but then again …

The Winged Victory of Samothrace must hold the most striking place in the museum.  It is at least 2200 years old and near or far from it, I think to myself, Were their sculptors better than ours?

The figure seems to be poised to leave the earth, to rise from curve of the planet.  And what makes it enigmatic is that it has no head.  Even if the original sculptor had not intended it that way, I (we?) receive it with profound paradox.

The Raft of Medusa, painted by Théodore Géricault in 1818-19, was prompted by the real-life event of the raft used in 1816 to save the crew of a sunken French frigate.  The few survivors had horrendous tales to tell.  The painting proved controversial, but its worth was soon recognized, its influence burgeoning.

Five metres by seven metres, this huge painting was a break-away from the ethos of the calm rationality of 18th-century painting, The figures in the painting are mostly life-sized.  I was moved by the twisted torment of bodies which seem to surge up, from the dead and dying, toward the weak, the brave survivor, waving his desperate hankerchief at the distant ship.


Three works … beyond them treasures one can’t imagine.  In one place!  May none of us commit the sin of boredom.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



Wikpedia: Mona Lisa,Winged Victory and Raft of Medusa



Mona Lisa – Wikipedia

Winged Victory – justfunfacts. .com

Raft of Medusa –







Will will travel

I am a part of all that I have met

Ek is deel van alles wat ek ontmoet het

Je fais partie de tout ce que j’ai rencontré

Είμαι μέρος όλων αυτών που έχω γνωρίσει

Soy parte de todo lo que he contrado

Ich bin ein Teil von allem, was ich getroffen habe

나는 내가 만난 모든 것의 일부이다.

Sono parte di tullo quello che ho incontrato

Ik ben onderdeel van alles wat ik heb ontmoet

Namibia from space


I am a part of all that I have met; 

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ 

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades 

For ever and forever when I move. 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! 

From Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1833


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



The earth




Space Panorama NASA 1969






It has been years since I went to Plaza de Toros in Madrid for a bull-fight.  My partner refused to go — “I can’t sit and watch that cruelty”,  she had the three of us know.  But I went, telling myself that it was out of curiosity.  All my life I’d heard of this and, like flamenco music, the bull-fight is Spain.

I watched the bull enter, swinging his great horned head this way and that, as if in wind, searching out the enemy.  Then, the picadors, some on horseback, wound the bull by opening his back for the sword ultimately to enter.  And last of all, the matador, an image of refined defiance.

What I remember was his balletic agility, lifting himself just out of the reach of the points of those searching horns, horns as agile as he is.  He was an unforgettable combination of grace and daring, facing death each moment in the eyes of the bull.  He took two or three thrusts of his sword before the bull, literally, symbolically, sank to its knees.

How do I now, years later, reconcile myself to that cruelty?  It is the message of the brutality, the timeless poetry of it — two forces, the one dark, primeval, and the other lithe and evolved; the one brute, the other, a refined spirit.  It is the clash of nature and culture; a rush of opposites.  The event will keep burgeoning for me.  It took me years to understand why I did not, and cannot, condemn bull-fighting.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

September, 2017


Images by Pablo Picasso


Morning Vision

For some years I’ve been intrigued by a sight from the living room in the sky above the suburbs.  The French air force have jets flying above the Côte d’Azur leaving white smoke trails.   These trails make crisscross patterns in the early-morning glow before the sun rises.  At first the cynic in me saw this as a public relations exercise, but perhaps these amazing lines help new pilots see what they and others are doing.


I’ve stood riveted many times as the straight white lines extend magically through the gold sky.    It’s as if an invisible artist is ruling these lines, slowly and deliberately.  The space above the Mediterranean becomes a vast canvas for the geometric designs.


Photographs capture something of the vision, but it’s the strangeness of the growing patterns, the lines extending into immense angled forms.  It is an image of cosmic liberty.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

September, 2017


My photographs





FRIEDA OLLEMANS  – sculptor supreme

I don’t remember her that well.  But I remember the whisky-and-cigars voice, and the eyes that saw everything through the lens of irony.  Her dress … well, she didn’t pander to fashion.  Yes, you couldn’t escape it — there was a bohemian rising out of the late years of modernism.  Her husband Helmut was, in the words of someone who considered Helmut an enemy, “the most professional wine farmer in the Western Cape.”  And Helmut supported every hammer, every chisel, every chip of cedar wood or ebony, everything that Frieda did, because Frieda was an artist.  That’s what you did with artists.



Born in 1915, Frieda studied sculpture under H.V. Meyerovitz in Cape Town in the early-1930s.  She went on to an award-winning career at the Slade School in London for three years.  On her return to Cape Town in 1940, she made marionettes for puppet theatre as well as pioneering childrens art centres in  the Western Cape.  The Frank Joubert Centre in Stellenbosch is an example.

Wood nymph

She had exhibitions in South Africa and abroad.  Some of her work was displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as in Chicago.

                The Dancer

Her first one-person exhibition was held in Stellenbosch in 1972.  She presented pieces in ebony, teak, cedar wood, olive wood and lead.  Unlike any artist I’ve known she had notices up amongst the works:  Please Touch the Sculptures.  For me, there are few instances in the history of art more sacred than that.

       Woman – Bearer of life

              A figure for Mutti

It was a huge price to pay, but I clenched my teeth and did it.  And I have it yet — a figure by Frieda.  Her work for me is harmonious as well as being braced against an obvious realism.  The lines flow.  I once heard her say, The wood tells me what it must become.  And it’s in the organic design, never unsettling, never stark and hard-edged, always leading the eye easily, sensuously to surprising detail.  The finish is immensely satisfying.  You ponder these pieces.  I have pondered mine for more than forty-five years.   Those who inherit what I have will ponder it too, as will their grandchildren and those beyond.

                Figure by Frieda

                Figure by Frieda


© Will van der Walt

Bridgewater, Somerset West

August, 2017



With special thanks to Süsse Bakker who provided the biographical information.

With thanks to Miki Flockemann.


Odysseus, Wood nymph – Süsse Bakker

Remaining images – my photographs





Sagrada Familia – from another world

The first time I prayed in a car, was when the mad Persian (a.k.a. Iranian) sardined the four of us onto the backseat of his plush Mercedes and in full tilt chased through the dense traffic of Barcelona to the cathedral of Sagrada Familia.  On arrival I was still at the Amen, when the mad Persian hounded us up one of ornamental towers of the still-under-construction cathedral.  I didn’t count the steps, but I suspect it must have been over three hundred.  The view of the city was misty and magnificent.

Sagrada Familia, with construction cranes

The building of this cathedral began in 1882, when Antoni Gaudi, the Catalan architect, was thirty.  For various reasons building was slow.  By the time Gaudi died in 1926, it had not been completed.  The story is that building plans had been lost and Gaudi’s concepts were not viable.  This is how I saw it more than forty years later.  Yet the main portals and the towers held an unforgettable fascination.

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is like nothing I have seen.  The art critic Rainer Zerbst says, “It is probably impossible to find anything like it in the entire history of art.”

The main portals have been modified in recent years with expressive gothic frames in front of the original entrances.

Sagrada Familia, with gothic frames

And these original entrances – they riveted me.  They look like the entrances of salagtite caves, with brown cement still dripping from the arcs.  The colour texture of the whole façade of the church looks as if it has risen out of the ground.  Yet the towers, striking rounded forms, come across as playful even artificial.

Figures in the cathedral

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

It is a pity that I did not see more of Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona and Madrid.  From images I can say that the organic character, strange and dreamlike, is true to the eccentric spirit of Catalonia and has yielded some of the most original art in history.

Antoni Gaudi in 1880

The journey back to the campsite with the mad Persian was more sedate.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017



Wikipedia – Sagrada Familia



Sagrada Familia, with construction cranes –

Sagrada Familia, with gothic frames –

Figures – Pinterest

Sagrada Familia, with trees –

Antoni Gaudi – Basilica de la Sagrada Familia






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