n De Arte - 'A cultural icon and a beacon of light in the inner city' : the role of the Friends of the Tatham Art Gallery (FOTAG), Pietermaritzburg, in ensuring the gallery's success : collecting and curating




Founded in 1903, the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg is one of South Africa's earliest public art museums, predated by the establishment of similar institutions in Cape Town, Grahamstown and Durban. The early history of the museum is bound up with the character and personality of its founding patron, Mrs Ada Susan Tatham, wife of Frederic Spence Tatham, a Natal Supreme Court judge and parliamentarian. Mrs Tatham exercised her influence and social prominence in order to form a public collection of artworks for Pietermaritzburg, on the principle that, like Cape Town, Grahamstown and Durban before it, a worthy colonial city should follow the model of the metropole in providing morally and spiritually uplifting environments for its citizens. Indeed, as Brendan Bell (1994) notes, it is primarily 'the spiritual enlightenment of the citizens of Pietermaritzburg which underscored Mrs Tatham's pursuit of establishing a collection of artworks for the city', supported by her unwavering patriotism and 'belief in the notion of colonialism and Empire'.


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