Born 1916, Died 2014
Extract from ‘Dances of Black Africa, Art and Text by Grethe Hutt-Schonken’, 1976, Educational Consortium of America
Grethe Hutt-Schonken was born near the border of what is now Lesotho in Southern Africa. Both her parents were physicians in private practice – her mother the first woman doctor to practice in the interior of Africa. Her father was intensely interested in anthropology and natural history, and often took time off from his medical practice for expeditions into the interior where he would gather specimens of rock engraving and plants for his own study or for museums. Young Grethe often accompanied him on these expeditions where her own interest in the folklore and artefacts of Africa developed.
After a period of schooling in the Netherlands, she became a journalist and illustrator of children’s books. Later she studied art in London, Paris and Munich.
Again, she undertook a series of expeditions into the interior of Africa. Her fascination with native carving and painting continued to grow. On one occasion Grethe Hutt-Schonken made a solo journey through Africa from Uganda southward, using local means of transportation and closely observing the art and folklore of the various countries through which she travelled.
For many years now the subject matter of her painting has been the ethnic cultures of Black Africa. She has had many one-man shows, including exhibits in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and Namibia (South West Africa), and has had her work accepted for international exchange exhibitions in West Germany, Jugoslavia, and Australia, and for the Sao Paulo Biennale in Brazil. Several of her works are in the permanent collection of the London County Council.
Since coming to the United States, Grethe Hutt-Schonken has had one-man shows in Washington D.C., Texas A&M University, the University of Dallas, where her husband, William H. Hutt is Distinguished Professor of Economics) and two shows in Palo Alto, California.
Speaking of her own art, Grethe Hutt-Schonken says that she has been inspired by the spontaneous creations of the anonymous African tribal artists. Her paintings reflect not only the eerie and sombre characteristics of those native creations, but also their humour and vivacity. The bright colours she favours express her own tastes as well as the vivid hues typical of tribal dress in most areas of the African interior.