Frederik Bester Howard (Erik) Laubscher was born on 3 February 1927 in Tulbagh, in the Cape. His father was a Glasgow trained physician with strong interests in psychiatry. His mother was the daughter of an Edinburgh professor of music.
His artist’s talents were first recognised in 1940 at Pinelands Junior School in Cape Town, but after the University of Cape Town (UCT) rejected him “because he could not draw”, he took private art lessons with the well-known Belgian painter Maurice van Essche who persuaded him to study in London.
He studied in London and Paris and returned to South Africa in 1951 with a strong formalist grounding. Laubscher’s early paintings were influenced by Post-Cubist trends and the School of Paris. His studies under Fernand Léger would prove to be important and influence his work at a later stage.
Moving to the Ecole de Paris, France changed his life. He fell in love with a young French artist, Claude Bouscharainm, at the Academie Montmartre. They married in Cape Town in October 1951.
Laubscher was a man of bold views and colours, a born teacher and a ‘hands-on’ personality. He sold paints for 15 years to keep his family going and was instrumental in the conversion of a dilapidated Woodstock outbuilding into the Ruth Prowse Art Centre and its founder/director for 25 years.
In 2009, his oil painting ‘Still life with mandolin, music score and fruit fetched R 1.2 M at an auction in Cape Town. During his illustrious career spanning 60 years, he represented South Africa at the Sao Paulo and Venice Biennale and was included in major museums, university and public collections. Laubscher’s contribution lies not only in his creative paintings, but also in every field connected with art, like activism, at which he was always in the forefront, and in art teaching.
Dr Hans Fransen, author of Erik Laubscher: A Life in Art published in 2009 by SMAC Art Gallery to coincide with Laubscher’s retrospective exhibition, said, “Most of his life he was an abstract painter, particularly of landscapes. He was perhaps the one who most pertinently adapted abstract art to the South African scene”.
Erik Laubscher, died in his sleep at Kronendal in Hout Bay, Western Cape, on 22 May 2013.He is survived by his wife Claude, son Pierre and daughters Michele Human and Francesca Gayraund-Laubscher.