'On board ship' signed 'Krige' (lower right) oil on canvas 72 x 87cm (28 3/8 x 34 1/4in).
PROVENANCE: A private collection
LITERATURE: Justin Fox, The life and art of Francois Krige, (Vlaeberg, 2000), illustrated p. 61
On Board Ship is an example of work inspired by Krige's time as war artist in the Second World War. This piece differs to his other war artworks by the richness of the colours used, a consequence of the artist revisiting this period of his life in his more mature years. The scene is of a symptom of war which is often overlooked by war artists and journalists, the group mentality which is formed when at war. It shows an appreciation for the sportsmanship on board military vessels. There is fighting but it undermines horrendous sights of war which are shown in his other of his works.
This gave a different perspective, because it is not directly related to the battlefield. Krige had never directly experienced the adrenalin or pain that comes in battle. He had joined the army as a war artist and so bypassed formal military training. He was forever the spectator, watching the suffering of others and so it could not be said that he ever sought to glorify war, not even in his later days when he was reflecting nostalgically through his artwork on his war days.
Krige's reclusive nature made him very aware of being a spectator, his eyewitness accounts of events show no real physical involvement but certainly demonstrate emotional attachment.
Those of Krige's paintings which were made at war did not show such richness of colour, few other pieces influenced by this period are similarly vibrant. It is a challenge to enjoy colour in a khaki clad world. The scene is recorded as an example of the tedium of this type of travel, and perhaps also the means of ignoring the anticipation of war. His work displaced this drain of colour later in life when he returned to South Africa.
His duty as a war artist was contradictory to his style of painting, he did not favour the depiction of tanks and jeeps but preferred the personal and so he grappled with his subject matter on arriving in Egypt. During the spring of 1944, Krige decided that war had strained his sensitive disposition and he, quite boldly, requested to take leave and enjoy the artistic indulgence that Rome offered. He claimed that he was exhausting the quality in his artwork, he was well respected and was given leave to remain in Rome even at the expense of the military, so proving the admiration he had gained by his work.
"...the mid-eighties reveals a sustained period of nostalgically reinhabiting moments from his youth, from the war years, from his period in Cape Town and most significantly from his early journeys to Namibia and Botswana.
"It was a time for looking back over his life. He revisited the emotional space of the war and repainted scenes of bombed buildings in Foggia (1980) and the large troopship oil entitled On Board Ship."
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Justin Fox, The life and art of Francois Krige, (Vlaeberg, 2000), p. 105