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Search for George Enslin Osaka Painting

Posted on 3 December 2015

George Enslin's widow, Noriko Enslin, is searching for one of his paintings which depicts their homeland, Osaka, before its destruction in 1995 by an earthquake. Noriko has searched for the painting before in 1997 through various published articles in newspapers around the country but has yet to find the artwork. It is now with renewed hope that she searches again.

Below we publish her open letter in hope of finding any information its whereabouts.

Open letter from Mrs. Noriko Enslin

My name is Noriko Enslin; I was married to George Jean August Enslin.

One day in 1996 I discovered some photographic negatives while tidying up in my apartment. Perhaps you can imagine my great surprise and delight when, more than twenty years after my husband's death, I found that the photographs were of six of George's paintings that I had never seen before. I do not know who took the photographs; perhaps it was George.

One photograph in particular grabbed my attention. It was a view of Osaka: my hometown. The painting is of bridges crossing one of the rivers that flow through Osaka. In 1996, when I first saw the photograph, the scene in George's painting had all but disappeared and today it would be impossible to recognise. When I first saw the photograph my mind flew into the scene and I felt at home. From that time I have held a strong desire to find out where the painting is. This has been something that has been in the back of my mind for many years.

My husband was a wonderful, warm hearted and dynamic man who was loved by many people. He was a great traveller. George came to Japan in the 1960s to study amongst other things, Japanese woodblock printing, enamel work, bronze casting, and pottery making. Also, he built a 43-foot ketch for his studio, and later our home, in the Mediterranean: 'Odette of Osaka'. George loved Osaka as well as the nearby ancient Japanese capitals of Nara and Kyoto. As many people know, George was a prolific painter and he made quite a number of works from his visits to Japan. As he sent all of his work back to South Africa I know very little about these paintings.

George and I met in Osaka in 1966 during his sixth visit to Japan. The laws of South Africa at that time prohibited us from being husband and wife. We married in Japan in December 1966 and then flew to London to register our marriage in England. Around the time that we met, George was developing a new painting style and I really admired his works. His bold brush touch, cubic compositions, and light in the paintings were mainly created outdoors with him standing in front of his easel.

We settled in Greece. We were gifted two daughters: Annette and Nancy. Nancy was born in 1971 in Osaka. I was with George while he painted. A baby on my back I stood nearby and made tea, or mixed his colours. It was a happy time in my life. In particular it was wonderful to see George's whole energy, his discipline and life experiences coming together and manifesting in his works.

George returned to South Africa by himself to exhibit his works (I could not visit George's homeland until after he passed away). In 1970, George took Annette (2 1/2 years old) with him to visit South Africa.

In March 1972 our family settled on Aegina one of the Saronic Islands of Greece. A few months later George suffered a massive stroke and despite getting him to a hospital in Athens George died almost immediately.

After George's death I had to return to Osaka with our daughters and the meagre possessions I could carry. I started life without my husband from scratch.

In 1981 I received 14 of George's paintings from South Africa, most of which George had painted before we were married.

In 1982 Nancy and I visited South Africa to commemorate George's life and I held three exhibitions of his works.

In 1997 Nancy and I made a second visit to South Africa. On that occasion the photograph of the painting of the circa 1960 Osaka cityscape was published in the Cape Argus (November 11, 1997) together with an article about our search for this painting and other paintings by George. Largely as a result of newspaper articles about our visit, around 30 people shared with me the details of their collection of George's art. However, there was no news about the painting of Osaka that I was seeking.

Recently, with a renewed urgency I decided to try again to find out whatever I can about this especially meaningful (to me) painting.

I am always very happy and grateful to receive any information about George Enslin's paintings. I hope that people who read this letter may be kind enough to share with me any information they have about George's paintings and, in particular, the painting in the photograph of the cityscape of Osaka in the 1960s.

I can be contacted at norikoenslin@gmail.com.

Thank you.

Noriko Enslin

UPDATED

We are happy to hear that the painting has been found. In September 2018 the people, who currently have the painting contacted Mrs Enslin. After the Enslin painting was passed to them from a relative they were searching for information about it, and found Mrs Enslin letter and the photograph on Art.co.za.

Mrs Enslin was extremely happy that she could learn a little about this special painting and the people that have it.




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