Richard ‘Ginger’ Townley Johnson
Ginger, as he was known, was born in 1911.
It was only in 1940 that due to his mutual passion for rough camping and rock art recording, that he started recording painting in the Bainskloof mountains, parts of the Western Cape mountains from Hex River in the south to Pakhuis in the north, eventually covering more than 500 sites.
Ginger was not only a man of the mountains, he was a familiar strandloper of the Atlantic coast between Llandudno and Oudeschip. He and his wife Mary were early residents of the village and his contribution to the community was acknowledged when he was awarded the ‘Freedom of Llandudno’. It was here that his three children grew up and, over the years, the family rescued dozens of people from the dangerous currents and icy waters of the bay, as well as participating in mountain rescues, since Ginger was a member of the Mountain Club.
Ginger’s artistic flair contributed greatly to the success of his reproductions of rock art. He worked on techniques of tracing and reproduction over several decades, always striving for a closer resemblance to the originals on the rock face. More than any other copyist he was concerned with reproducing the colours and textures of the rock face as well as the actual paintings, so that the viewer could experience something very close to seeing the original. He always tried to include features of the natural rock surface which may have influenced the Stone Age artists.
Ginger’s rock painting reproductions featured in many exhibitions and they provided the content for two books: Rock Paintings of the South-West Cape and Major Rock Paintings of Southern Africa. The calibre of his work achieved further recognition when, after his retirement, the Rembrandt Van Rijn Art Foundation sponsored him to continue with it.
Richard ‘Ginger’ Townley Johnson died in 1994.