Geoffrey Eastcott Pearse [16:02:1885 -01:04:1968 ]
Drawings of eighteenth century architecture and furniture from the Pearse Collection were made by his students whom he took on a field trip down to the Cape in the late 1920’s for the purposes of recording extant Cape Dutch buildings as well as pieces of the furnishings of the period which would have graced these homesteads. The measured drawings were redraughted by a select group of gifted students. They became known as the ‘Transvaal Group’, a term coined in French by the master, Le Corbusier. The published versions are ‘ clean’ versions of the originals. In 1933, the year that their Professor, Geoffrey Pearse, published his monograph on an historical subject, the ‘Transvaal Group’ published their manifesto ‘zero hour’, deliberately written in lower case sans serif in the style of the Bauhaus, in celebration of the Modern, the title deliberately chosen to show their resolve in breaking ties with the past. They were later to make their mark as early South Africa moderns. The third edition of ‘Eighteenth Century Architecture’ (1963) was published by Balkema, the publishing house of the Dutch-born immigrant, Guus Balkema (1906-1986), who established himself at the Cape after the Second World War. When Balkema ceased publishing, the drawings were found amongst the paraphernalia left in his publishing house. Gawie Fagan, at the time engaged in the restoration of Cape Dutch homesteads, was offered these, which he gratefully accepted. He has preserved them over the years. He forwarded them to the Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria on loan for purposes of digitizing for the archive collection before making a donation of them to the State Archives in Cape Town. They were shown at the Cape of Good Hope Castle and are presently on loan to the South African Institute of Architects for exhibition in Johannesburg and then Pretoria in 2006.
The drawings for the companion volume ‘Eighteenth Century Furniture at the Cape’, only published in the 1960s by Van Schaik’s of Pretoria are in the possession of Mira Fassler-Kamstra, daughter of John Fassler. He, as a young architectural student, was Pearse’s draughtsperson of choice, and became heir to the collection. A select number were exhibited in Bloemfontein as part of the Sophia Grey Memorial Lecture, of which Ms Fassler-Kamstra was the first doyenne. An agreement between the Departments of Architecture, University of the Free State and Pretoria, had the exhibition forwarded to the University of Pretoria where they were exhibited in the Gallery in the Old Letters Building. Unfortunately two of the drawings – framed – disappeared from the collection when the exhibition was demounted. Mira Fassler-Kamstra, who arranged that the Fagan collection be safely transported and delivered, graciously made her collection available for digitizing and archiving in order that the University of Pretoria have the complete record of drawings, the only such collection.
In addition the drawings made for Pearse’s two books ‘Eighteenth Century Architecture’ (1933) , 'Eighteenth Century Architecture' (reprint: 1968) and 'Eighteenth Century Furniture'(1960) were made available by the owners, Gawie Fagan and Mira Fassler Kamstra respectively, for high quality digital photographing and digital archiving.
Gawie Fagan has since donated his Collection to the National Archives, Cape Town, after exhibiting the collection at the Castle of Good Hope.
What is interesting about these drawings is that they were measured and drawn by young students who, as graduates and practicing architects, as well as academics, were to make and leave there mark in the annals of architecture, both locally and abroad.
A Special word of thanks to Bryan do Vale, Henning van Aswegen and Karlien van Niekerk for their contributions to this collection.
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