References to modernism have been dominant in most of Claire de Jong's work of in recent years, almost in contrast to her seminal training as a painter in the most traditional of techniques. This was particularly notable when building a body of work she developed that pushed the tenets of modernism into a very personal space, especially when working with sculpture noted for its dominant palette; essentially white or reflecting mirror surfaces that deny colour or reflect only the presence of colour elsewhere. 

One could, taking this idea further, connect this dominance of “non-colour” to her Duch cultural roots; the references to the Dutch Nul Group (or Jan Schoonhaven more specifically). And those connections are certainly there. But, to suggest this gets to the heart of her work would be folly. Claire de Jong makes works that embrace both the classicism of Dutch painting from ‘The Golden Age’ and sculpture with a pure lineage to modernism arising during the 20th century. Yet, at the same time, there is a deeply embedded romanticism in her work. 

The clues are in the titles as we trace through geometrically modernist works that refer to “husband”, “lover” and the like. This is the modernism of a woman who, like her sisters before her, understands loss in extreme emotional terms, just as during the height of Romanticism. She lost a beloved husband at a tragically early age and speaks of it in a sublimated and obscure way, through artistic practice.

Like many women artists of her generation, Claire de Jong’s achievements have often been overshadowed by men, sometimes men close to her. Like few, she is one of only women artist of her generation primarily raised on the visual cultural sensibilities of South Africa (and Cape Town in particular), giving her work a very specific character.