Leo Francois Rbc was born in Chemnitz, Germany, 1870. Francois, a long serving President of the NSA, was a protagonist with SASA in his quest to unite the various art societies in SA into a single academy. His efforts were untiring but they came to nothing. His death in 1938 marked the end of one era and the start of a new with the founding of the New Group. Francois was educated at Leipzig University and studied painting in Rome and London. He first came to SA in 1891 on the advice of Cecil Rhodes, but left in 1896. Eighteen months later, he returned to work in the insurance business in East Griqualand. He painted part-time, and became Chairman of the Art section of the Kimberley Athenaeum in 1910. In 1914 he moved to Durban, where he was an art critic on The Natal Mercury, writing under the nom'de'plume "Vermilion". As such, he used to propound his ideas on the issue of a "national" school of art that used SA subjects as an almost patriotic matter of principle. He was elected President of the NSA seven times, and while in that role founded the short-lived SA Institute of Art in 1925.
He served as its first President from 1926. Under his direction the NSA became one of the most influential and successful of SA's art societies, and vied with SASA, SA's oldest, for pre-eminence. In 1929, in recognition of his contributions to SA art, he was elected a member of the RBC. Francois' reputation has since evaporated. His National Academy failed, his writings on art are no longer read, and his own work, poorly represented in museum collections, is seen only at its best in private collections. Sunri5£ over the Tugela is a typical example of his landscape work, which is imbued with a romantic serenity. Many of his landscapes were conceived alongside the stretches of water where he, as a patient fisherman, used to observe the cycles of sunrise and sunset. He showed his work on at least four SASA exhibitions. He died in Durban, 1938.
Exhibitor on SASA-related exhibitions c.1898 - 1950: 1923: SASA 22nd Annual Exh., RH, City Hall, Darling St., 9 Feb. 1931: 1stAnnual Exh. ofContemp. National Art, SAAG fSANG) tuith SASA, 7 Dec.-31 Mar. 1932. 1936: SASA 34th Annual Exh., Ashbey's Gall., Church St., 5 - 11 Aug. 1936: SASA sect., with NA iS? inaep. artists, 6th Annual Exh. ofContemp. Art, SANG, 17 Dec. - 17 Feb. 1937.