15 February 1919
Father Frans Claerhout, acclaimed artist, priest and humanitarian was born on this day in Pittem, western Belgium. After completing his studies, he immigrated to South Africa in 1946 as a Catholic missionary. He was initially posted to the Orange Free State, where he worked among the black people living in and around Bloemfontein. He served primarily in Bloemfontein, Thabanchu and his beloved Tweespruit mission station. Although Claerhout did not receive formal instruction in painting, his charming style appealed to art lovers and investors alike and he held his first solo exhibition in Johannesburg in 1961. His artworks - characterised by their warm colours, thick impasto paint, exaggerated forms, humour and compassion - were exhibited widely in South Africa, as well as in Belgium, Canada, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom. His subject matter consisted of people and animals that he encountered in his daily life. His donkey depictions are particularly well known. He primarily worked with oil paints on canvas or rough surfaces, but he also experimented widely with other media e.g. modeling in clay and wood-carving, wall-paintings, monotypes and linocuts, stained glass set in concrete windows and a prolific stream of drawings in charcoal, pen-and-ink or crayon. About four years before his death in 2006, it was alleged that forgeries were printed and sold as originals by an art dealer.