Gregoire Johannes Boonzaier (South African, 1909-2005)
Still life (recto); Bedroom interior (verso) signed 'Gregoire' (upper left) oil on board 19.5 x 25.5cm (7 11/16 x 10 1/16in). unframed
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by Isaac Horvitch (1920-2005) Thence by descent to the current owner
The son of refugees, Isaac Horvitch was named after his uncle Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918), the celebrated war poet and artist. He joined the South African Communist Party as a teenager in 1935, where he mixed with the black ANC leaders Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, the young Nelson Mandela, as well as white activists such as Helen Suzman, Betty Sachs and Hilda Bernstein. In 1946 he was charged with sedition, arising from the 1946 miners' strike.
He was arrested on 5 December 1956 on charges of treason arising from his involvement in the Congress of the People and the adoption of the Freedom Charter. The preparatory examination and trial lasted from December 1956 until March 1961, when all the accused were found not guilty and discharged. During the Treason Trial he did a number of sketches of the various trialists as no cameras were allowed in the courtroom; these later formed the basis of an exhibition at Museum Africa.
After being acquitted and after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, Horvitch escaped to Botswana and from there made his way to exile in London, where he made his mark as an architect.