Growing up at The Cavern has been an enormous privilege. We were surrounded by a large family, many events and happenings and wonderful tales of those that had visited before. The art, that has been collected over many years, makes this resort a special home and it is the collection of Alan Wolton’s work which is my absolute best.
Alan visited the Cavern when my grandmother, Ruth, was at the helm. Ruth was a busy hotelier in the late 1950’s. Her husband, Bill, had just passed away and she had 4 lively children to attend to plus the small mission of running a Guest Farm. We are so grateful that she bought a few of Alan’s paintings then and we are very pleased that we have acquired a few more.
Recently we repainted our dining room. It’s a bold blue (yes, really bold!) and we love how the paintings have popped. And, in sharing these we noticed an “Alan Wolton” page on social media and so we made contact. What a special reconnection!
Hi Alan. Please let us know a little about your early life. Where were you born and where did you go to school?
I was born in England after my parents lost a daughter in Chile, South America. My father, an engineer, then took my mother and me to South Africa where he worked in the Johannesburg gold mines, more specifically Springs where I went to school.
Have you always been an artist? And how easy was it making a living from painting?
I was an only child after the death of my sister Enid. I was very shy and reclusive and in my loneliness took to painting. My mother kept a clean house so insisted I keep all my paintings in a book which I created. I still have this book! After matriculation, I ventured out painting Plein Aire but could not support myself. I got a job operating punch cards for Fisons Fertilizers in Durban. Then to Johannesburg working for Hollerith.
When did you leave South Africa? And why?
My first wife Ann and I left South Africa with our two children at the invitation of a couple visiting us from Sedona, AZ. Uprooting the Wolton family from South Africa was a colossal decision. Why should we leave South Africa? We had only just moved into our beautiful and majestic new home in Fish Hoek. Scenically, the area was magnificent. I could have found painting material there for a lifetime. But I had an enduring case of wanderlust. We left in 1982.
What is one of you most favourite memories of the Drakensberg and more particularly The Cavern?
My parents had holidayed at the Cavern when I was a teenager. Once I felt financially comfortable, I wrote to Ruth Carte requesting I down pay for accommodation as I wanted to return to professional painting. Ruth was a bit skeptical and demanded my mother’s approval. I enjoyed her hospitality and for 16 Rands a month lived happily at the Cavern selling to guests for about five US dollars per piece. It took no time to realize the first month’s board.
How has you style of painting changed and developed?
My early paintings were extraordinarily detailed. Over the years I have learned to become looser in my interpretations. In Europe I am termed a bold realist and in the US I am called an Impressionist. Frankly, I have never specifically attempted to follow a trend. The style of my work has come naturally. I paint with emotion.
What advice would you give to youngsters that have a passion for the arts?
What advice would I give to youngsters who want to be artists? Advise them strongly against it! If they insist as I did, they will probably survive as I did!
These mountains hold a million memories and many stories and how lovely to connect once again. What has tickled us all is that Alan still has a copy of Ruth’s letter from 1958 with the line; “I do hope your mother is aware of your intentions as I should hate to be party to any thing she would disapprove of!”
We’re very pleased that there was no disapproving and that Alan spent much time painting the surrounding hills and mountains and that today, we can still enjoy the beauty of his work.
Many happy returns, many happy memories.