I still feel a piece should be worked on and tampered with as little as possible.


- Esias Bosch




When Esias Bosch turned eighty in 2003, he worked in clay for the last time and took up again the direction he excelled in as a student — that of painting and drawing. He called his drawings of Lowveld trees, ‘Portraits of Trees.’  His daughter Andre Eva Bosch recorded a conversation with him about these drawings.


For some time now I have been making drawings of indigenous trees, especially trees of the Mpumalanga Lowveld.


I began working only on paper — good quality paper. I cut my own pens from kiaat wood growing on the Randjie and wood of other indigenous trees. I cut and shaped the pens to my needs — some give thinner lines, others bold.


Yet after a period of working only on paper, I wanted to draw these beautiful natural ‘tree-beings’ larger and larger, and I needed to make some technical changes to accommodate the bigger sizes. I knew these ‘portraits’ would be most satisfying if they were large — and not framed nor behind glass due to the problem of reflection on large surfaces.


So I developed a suitable medium to work on — gesso; an ancient medium of special glue mixed with materials such as zinc, titanium or lime which I apply to high quality marine ply in several layers. The ‘portrait’ hangs on a sturdy frame which is attached to the back of the gesso surface, but not visible in front. This white surface gets sandpapered to a smooth finish before I begin drawing on it with ink and my pens cut from wood.


Every drawing is unique, as each tree has its own light and shadow and interesting leaf, branch and trunk characteristics. I have great admiration for botanical artists, but I am not one – I try only to capture the character of each tree.


I have chosen to draw trees because trees speak to human beings, they are symbols of that which is deeply rooted and that which grows and reaches toward the light and the sky.


At this time in history many of us are conscious of the grave effects of human greed on the planet. Trees, like so many other natural resources, have been abused for the sake of wealth. There is a saying which goes something like this: When the last tree is felled, humanity will realise we cannot eat money.


Bosch ended his illustrious career spanning some 60 years, spending hours making these drawings, and often commented on the pleasure he derived from the work. Even as he became frail in his 80’s, and only able to work for short periods, he could be found in his studio drawing yet another portrait of the Lowveld trees he loved so much.


Browse prints of trees available for purchase here.





A slideshow illustrates the progression of the largest of Bosch’s ‘tree portraits’, an enormous Baobab on gesso, 3,65 x 2,3 m. In the first slide Bosch is faced with three large gesso panels, prepared by him, and the viewer is taken on a visual journey until the completion of the imposing work. Please click below to activate the slideshow.


Bosch draws a Baobab TRIPTYCH – VIEW THE slideshow


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COPYRIGHT | In terms of South Africa’s Copyright Act, No. 98 of 1978, no reproduction of Esias Bosch artwork is allowed without permission from the copyright holders. Any person who reproduces this reproduction or any other Esias Bosch artwork in any form, without the permission of the copyright holders, will be deemed to have infringed the copyright and will be liable for a damages claim at the instance of the copyright holders.