Moses Kottler was born in Joniskis, Lithuania. Sources differ as to the date of his birth – some give it as 1892, others as 1896. As a child, his parents moved to South Africa, but let him study in Jerusalem, Palestine (now Israel). Although he showed an early interest in sculpting, there was no relevant training available in Palestine. Therefore, he studied painting and drawing at the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem and taught himself sculpting. In 1912 he visited his parents in South Africa, but returned to Europe to study in Munich and then to work in Paris and London. In 1915 he settled in South Africa.

Before moving to Cape Town, he first worked in Oudtshoorn, where his parents had a business. In Cape Town he befriended cartoonist D. C. Boonzaier and art critic Bernard Lewis and established himself as a sculptor. He also painted portraits and a number of still-lives and landscapes. In 1928 he married Eva Goldberg, and after an art-tour of Europe between 1929-1932, he moved to Johannesburg, where he made a good name as a sculptor.

Kottler was a member of the New Group, a prestigious artists’ group founded in 1938 by Gregoire Boonzaier and Terence McCaw. The organisation’s aim was, among other things, to bring artists and craftsmen together in order to raise the quality of South African art, to help artists in financial difficulty and to hold exhibitions all over the country. New members were elected by existing members by means of secret-ballot. The group held its final exhibition in 1953, after which it was decided to disband due to internal disagreements.

Kottler was also a long-time member or the advisory committee of the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Together with Anton van Wouw and Lippy Lipshitz, Kottler is seen as a leading South Africa sculptor of his time.


Berman, E. (1970). Art & Artists of South Africa, Cape Town: A.A. Balkema.|Fransen, H. (1982). Three Centuries of South African Art, Johannesburg: AD. Donker.

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