John Nott Sartorius (1759 - 1828), The Kill (1797), oil on canvas, 880 x 1145 mm. Sir Abe Bailey Bequest.


Henry Alken Jnr (1810 - 1894), The Celebrated Captain Mitton on Horseback, oil on canvas, 355 x 455 mm. Sir Abe Bailey Bequest. 


John Hoppner (1758 - 1810), Portrait of Lady Ibbetson, oil on canvas, 925 x 715 mm. Sir Abe Bailey Bequest.


Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723 -1792), David Stewart Erskine, as Lord Cardoss, oil on canvas, 915 x 710 mm. Sir Abe Bailey Bequest.


Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769 - 1830), Portrait of the Poet Robert Southey, oil on canvas, 1435 x 1125 mm. Sir Abe Bailey Bequest.


William Woolett (1735 - 1785), The Apple Gatherers, engraving, 443 x 557 mm. Sir Abe Bailey Bequest. 

Sir Abe Bailey Bequest

Spanning over 400 items, the Abe Bailey Bequest enriched the foundation collection when it arrived at the SA National Gallery in 1947. Adhering to a request in Sir Abe Bailey's will, the Bequest always hangs (either as a whole or in part) at the Iziko South African National Gallery.

Sir Abe Bailey, a South African born Randlord, was a mining magnate, financier, politician and an avid art collector. Born to a British father, who emigrated from England to South Africa, Sir Bailey made this significant collection possible. The bulk of this collection, which boasts works by British artists such as Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir William Beechey, Sir Henry Raeburn, Henry Alken, Samuel Alken Junior, Charles Henderson, John Herring Senior, James Pollard, John Sartorius and Dean Wolstenholme Senior. The Sir Abe Bailey Bequest even holds art works by Old 17th century Dutch and French Masters such as Gaspard Dughet, and Mattheus Wijtmans.

A Randlord who loved art

Born in Craddock in the Eastern Cape in 1864, Sir Abe Bailey bequeathed this collection to ISANG upon his death at his Muizenberg home in the Western Cape in 1940. His death came after years of suffering from thrombosis for a number of years that saw both of his legs amputated in his later years. In his last will and testament, Sir Bailey stipulated that the conditions for this bequest were that part of the collection always remains on view within the gallery's premises.

Sir Bailey was one of the few South African Randlords, including Sir Maximilian Michaelis and Sir Edmund Davis to leave a lasting legacy through bequests of their large art collections for the South African nation to enjoy and learn from. This bequest is seen as a contribution to nation building in South Africa. Many art collections from Randlords who obtained their wealth from the country's mining opportunities amassed art works of high historical value, including work by Vermeer, Rembrandt and other Old Masters. These art works are sadly not in South Africa, but in cities such as Dublin, London and New York where they have found permanent homes.

Sir Bailey travelled extensively between South Africa and England, often arriving in England in time for the start of the hunting season, and returning after its conclusion. At the time when this bequest was made, the majority of the collection was in England where Sir Bailey kept his collection. The Second World War had recently broken out, so sending this collection to South Africa during wartime was not possible. It remained in England until the war ended. After the war, the bequest was shipped to South Africa. The shipment arrived in Cape Town in November 1946 with smashed frames that were restored by our conservation department. The bequest was ready for public viewing in January 1947, and General Jan Smuts officially opened the exhibition on 5 March 1947.

Collections from the Sir Abe Bailey Bequest is, from time to time, interestingly juxtaposed  between radical, contemporary art and modern, emerging art exhibitions.

Art exhibitions that are interspersed between art works from the Sir Abe Bailey Bequest showcase the stories and histories of non-white people who were marginalized or forgotten during South Africa's colonial and apartheid eras. Occasionally, and upon special request, art works from this bequest are loaned out to other art galleries and for events such as fundraising events to raise awareness of a certain cause, such as the Elton John Cape Town Ball that was hosted to raise funds for HIV/AIDS projects.

 The Sir Abe Bailey Trust

During his lifetime, Sir Abe Bailey made two significant public contributions to South Africa. These contributions were the donation of the Fairbridge Collection of Africana books to the South African Library, and £100 000 to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. This financial contribution was used to secure Chatham House in London from where the Sir Abe Bailey Trust would operate.

The Sir Abe Bailey Trust was initially set up to finance initiatives that would encourage nation building between divided British and Afrikaner South Africans. Today, the Sir Abe Bailey Trust provides ongoing funds to us at ISANG to ensure continuous conservation work on the Sir Abe Bailey Bequest to ensure that this significant art collection remains in prime condition for public viewing. 


Hayden Proud:
Tel: +27 (0)21 481 3965
Email: hproud@iziko.org.za