Born in Queenstown in 1833, Ruth Prowse is known for her significant contribution to South African Art. She spent her childhood on the slopes of Devil Peak in Cape Town where she lived on a farm with her parents who were English immigrants.

In 1902, at the age of 19, Prowse went abroad to study and attended various institutions such as the Slade School and Royal Academy in London and the La Palette in Paris. In 1908 she returned to Cape Town to teach art and a year later she was elected to be a member of the South African Society of Artists.  In 1912, Prowse then moved to settle in Paarl.

Prowse took delight in learning where in 1923 she went to England on a study visit and spent the next 3 years there. She then returned again to South Africa and in 1928 she was selected as the keeper of the Michaelis Collection in Cape Town. Prowse went on another study visit to Europe in 1938 where her interest in research was in the preservation and restoration of art.

Prowse was one of the founding members of the New Group and was appointed chairlady in 1952. She functioned and served on numerous advisory and selection committees. Prowse was fervent and worked tirelessly towards the preservation of historic buildings. Between 1948 and 1957, she served as the trustee of the South African National Gallery in Cape Town and in 1959 she was awarded the Cape Tercentenary Foundation Medal for her exceptional work and efforts that went into the preservation of historical buildings.

Prowse was also awarded with the South African Association of Arts Medal of Honor in 1965 for her contribution to South African Art and she furthermore became a life time member of the Simon van der Stel foundation.

Prowse died in 1967 and her home was bequeathed for use as an art centre in the historic Roodebloem Estate in Woodstock, Cape Town. The local and provincial authorities, however, refused this generous gesture and Erik Laubscher took it upon himself and formed a committee in 1970 that undertook the project and task of opening the Ruth Prowse Arts Centre. A year later, Prowse’s Legacy lived on and her dream came to fruition with Laubscher as it’s director and continues to run till this day.



Collections in the Archives