Dorothy Dodds sketchbooks rediscovered!

Recently Anne Labuschagne has rediscovered two of her aunt's sketchbooks with glorious watercolours of mainly Fynbos flowers, but also some landscapes from Miss Dodds' time in England. Some 110 plates of botanical art will be published in a book. We are looking for a publisher and/or a sponsor. For more information, please contact Rosie At

Dorothy Dodds Watercolours

Click for enlargement and description

Dorothy Eleanor Dodds (1897-1981)
This poster for the Coffee Planters' Union of East Africa won the first price and was later turned into a 3-dimensional Poster.
3-8 Whitehall from St. James Park
Whitehall from St. James Park
At the Coast (with D's lines for the framer)
At the Coast (with D's lines for the framer)
Anne Neser17

Anne Neser 17

Dorothy Dodds (1897-1976)

Dorothy Eleanor Dodds (1897-1976) Let me drink of the cup that pure Beauty distills--
I will go out and look at the flowers!
Edith Matilda Thomas (1854-1925)

Have a look at some unique watercolours by a virtually unknown South African artist of yesteryear.
In a family where children were seen and definitely not heard, Dorothy Eleanor Dodds (Aunty Dot) had an air of mystery surrounding her. She was born in Johannesburg on 29 May 1897. From the age of 13 she was educated in England, where she was exposed to a style of genteel living (specially with regard to table manners) which kept us in awe of her. At table, so she told, they were only allowed to speak French, so meals were relatively quiet!

She was connected to an Aunt Kitty, who lived at Addington Palace! After a little research I found that in 1898 this "Former summer home to Archbishops of Canterbury" and the estate were purchased by a S A diamond merchant, Frederick Alexander English. English passed away in 1909. Dorothy's father, James Bowmaker Kerr -Dodds had connections with mining in Johannesburg before retiring to the Strand. One can but speculate on these connections.

Dorothy studied art at the London Polytechnic School of Arts where in 1915 she was awarded a Bronze medal. During 1917 - 1918 she worked as a draughtsman in the British Ministry of Munitions. At some time before the early 1930's she visited her older sister in East Africa, as is evident from some pencil sketches done in Mombasa. At this time an appeal was launched by the Coffee Planters' Union of Kenya and East Africa for donations to finance an advertising project in Great Britain for the sale of Kenyan coffee. Dorothy's "coffee poster" won the prize and was used as advertising material. Also stemming from this period of her life were whispers of a liaison with an Italian count, but nothing seems to have come of this.

On her return to South Africa, she held a post as a commercial artist with the S A Advertising Corporation. She created sketches of the fashions of the day for newspaper advertisements for the firm Cleghorn and Harris. After this she became a freelance artist.

As a member of the South African society of Artists, her water colours and pastels were displayed at their exhibitions. Prof. Rycroft commissioned her to submit three panels of indigenous wild flowers which formed part of the exhibition at the Western Cape Pavilion at the Van Riebeeck Festival in 1952.

The main thrust of her work has remained in two books containing very accurate and truly exquisite watercolours of many examples of the indigenous flora from the area known as Hottentots Holland in the Western Cape. Among her friends were members of the local mountain club and on a fairly regular basis their "pickings" of the day were brought to Dorothy's home in the Strand. These climbs usually took place at weekends and many a Saturday afternoon passed with her sitting in the "porch", a glass -enclosed stoep which fronted south -west, painting the delicate flowers as long as the light held. The paintings for the Van Riebeeck Festival appear to have been copies of some of these works.

Her days were spent running the household, looking after her ageing mother, doing cryptic crosswords and playing the occasional game of golf.
After the death of their mother she moved to Paarl where for a while she lived with her younger sister, Ruth and her husband G. O. Neser. Her last few years were spent at Huis Vergenoegd in Paarl, where she passed away on 28th November 1976.

Anne Labuschagne, née Neser
June 2011

2-7a Orothamnus zeyheri
Orothamnus zeyheri
1-2 Gladiolus carneus
Gladiolus carneus
1-28a Disa lugens var. lugens
Disa lugens var. lugens
1-27a Erica perspicua, Erica campanularis
Erica perspicua, Erica campanularis
(Watercolours by Dorothy E. Dodds © Anne Labuschagne)

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