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SELHORST, Sister Pientia born Josefa

Born: 1914 12 20
Died: 2001 06 11


Josepha Selhorst was born in Rietberg, Westphalia in 1914, daughter of a family of artists producing church art. Her brother was Dr Stephen Selhorst, a noted European art historian. She became a nun in the Benedictine Order of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Blood, adopting the name Pientia on taking her vows in 1933. The artistic background of her family channelled her life's work into the field of art and she studied art in Brabant in the Netherlands.

In 1938 she was sent to the Order's chief Mission at Mariannhill near Durban. She continued her studies in art at the Natal Teachers' Training College in Pietermaritzburg and then a BA degree in Fine Arts at the University of Natal. In 1942 she was appointed as teacher to the St Francis College where she taught the local black students to draw upon their own traditions. A study tour of European mediaeval art in 1951 helped her appreciate the affinity between this and local African traditions. In 1957 she returned to Europe to study mosaic and mural design. Thereafter she received various commissions across the country. She located to Queenstown to execute a commission there, engaging local black assistants and established a local craft centre at the Lumku Mission nearby. She established a Studio of Liturgical Art at Mariannhill, Pietermaritzburg, thereafter. She toured Europe in 1969 with an exhibition of her African students and reverted to her family surname, sanctioned by her Order. Between 1972 and 1981 she transferred to the Mariannhill convent in Rome. In 1981 she returned to Natal.

(Berman 1983:418; Oxley 1994:73-75)

[See also Pientia Selhorst in German Wikipedia.]

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With photographs
With notes

Sacred Heart Cathedral: 1962. Bloemfontein, Free State - Artist

Books citing SELHORST

Berman, Esmé. 1983. Art and artists of South Africa: An illustrated biographical dictionary and historical survey of painters, sculptors and graphic artists since 1875. Cape Town : Balkema. pp 418-419

Oxley, John. 1994. Stained Glass in South Africa. Johannesburg: William Waterman Publications. pp 73-78

Werth, Albert & Harmsen, Frieda. 1993. Our Art/Ons Kuns 4. Pretoria: Foundation for Education, Science and Technology. pp 74–81