Susanne du Toit was born in Pretoria, South Africa, where she spent her youth and studied at the University of Pretoria and then at Massachusetts College of Art, Boston USA.
She says of her work:
‘In the mid 70’s I made elegant abstract paintings, aware of all the formal issues – composition, colour, flatness … no narrative. When I went to Massachusetts College of Art in the mid 80s, they were confused about my subject matter. Such a solipsistic style seemed strange coming from a country in political turmoil, with so much to comment on. I was suddenly aware of the significance of context to art, and that abstract art offered no relationship to context: creatively a dead-end street. By the time I graduated I was converted to figurative painting. It was also at Massachusetts that I learned my most valuable lesson from my tutor George Nick – you can only do what you can do.’
Susanne works in a number of different mediums including paint, print and ceramics, but specialises in portraits which she paints in her studio in Berkshire. She describes her art as “an intensely individual experience” and says the meaning is personal, before it is public.
Du Toit was named winner of the 2013 BP Portrait Award at a ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery.