Title unknown (mother and child) by Edoardo Villa (1915 - 2011)
Title unknown (mother and child), 1967, bronze, patina and wooden base, 540 x 140 x 130 mm

Edoardo Villa (1915 - 2011)



"Edoardo Villa has been uniquely able to translate his South African experience into symbolic visual form."


(Esme Berman 2005:4)



About the artwork


Abstract, as the title suggests, is a stylized abstraction of a human figure carrying a child conveyed through simplified geometric form. Typical of Villa’s work from this period, the sculpture expressive a culmination of formal Modernist qualities such as Cubism as well as a recognition of traditional African sculptural from. Villa was passionately dedicated to the creation of an African identity in his work.  



About Villa’s art


Villa is considered one of the great masters of sculpture in South Africa. Throughout his career his dominant theme of focus was the human condition’ and the ‘universality of humankind (Berman, 1980). 



Villa’s background


Edoardo Villa was a trained sculptor originally from Bergamo in Italy. Villa relocated during the Second World War where he ended up as a prisoner at the POW camp in Pretoria. After he was released, he decided to make Johannesburg his home and from 1947 began to regularly exhibit his art work.


Villa’s sculptures progressed over the years, beginning with an expressionistic realism which was followed by simplified female forms and then moving onto his first simplified abstract pieces in the 1950’s. His sculptures were made in the traditional method of modelling in clay followed by a plaster-of-Paris mould which was then used for casting in bronze and other materials. 


In the 1950’s Villa began teaching at the Polly art centre in Johannesburg one of a few places that black artists could pursue a career in art. In 1961 Villa and a few other artists made up the artist group Amadlozi. At this time, Villa began working directly in steel marking a major turning point in his career. He created art works from steel made for industrial use. He began to restrict his work to basic elements of form in which line and plane became the dominant compositional elements. In the 1970’s the pipe became the main formal element within his work and bright colour was incorporated into his sculptures.


Villa donated a large portion of his work to the University of Pretoria’s art collection.





Berman, E. 2005. Foreword in Nel, E., Burroughs, E. and Von Maltitz, A. (eds.),Villa at 90, Jonathan Ball Publishing: Johannesburg and Cape Town, 1-13.


Berman, E. 1980. The human element in Edoardo Villa’s sculpture in Engel, E.P.(ed), Eduardo Villa Sculpture, United Book Distributors: South Africa.


Johans Borman Fine Art. Eduardo Villa (1915 – 2011). A Biography. [O]Available


[Accessed 27 December 2013]