Barbara Tyrrell Biography

Barbara Tyrrell

South African



Barbara Tyrrell, painter, printmaker, and illustrator, was born in Durban, South Africa, in 1912. Her father and grandfather had both occupied posts as interpreters between England and various African tribes, and her exposure to the Zulu world became her main source of inspiration in art. Tyrrell trained at the former University of Natal in the 1930s, and used her education and deep ties with Zulu tribal members to begin to record the disappearing daily life and ceremonial dress of the South African tribe. Amateur ethnologist and indigenous-art collector Killie Campbell, who held a collection of 250 of Tyrell's watercolors in the Campbell Collections, sponsored Tyrell and published the collection in 1968. Tyrell's work remains among the most important historical documentation of tribal life in Africa. Exhibitions: Tate Gallery, London, 1948; Van Riebeeck Tercentenary Exhibition, Cape Town, 1951; various group exhibitions. Collections: Killie Campbell Africana Library, Natal; Killie Campbell Collections, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban; Museum Afrika, Johannesburg; Queenstown Art Gallery.