Bruce Backhouse

Bruce Backhouse is a landscape painter who lives in Johannesburg. Bruce started out as a fine art student at Rhodes University under Brian Bradshaw, then enjoyed a successful 25-year career in advertising as an art director and creative director. He spent eight years managing Image Bank South Africa before becoming a full-time artist in 2004.
Throughout his career, Bruce has immersed himself in the vast arid interior of South Africa – the Great Karoo and the Kalahari. His landscape paintings are the consequence of his intense visceral relationship with uninhabited aridity devoid of human manipulation.
Preferring to work on location, never from photographs, he is a firm believer in the subconscious development of the artists mark with “time in the saddle”.


A visual narrative following the journey of The Freedom Trail Race Across South Africa.

The Freedom Trail comprises 2150km of district gravel roads, jeep tracks and cattle paths running from Pietermaritzberg in KZN to Wellington in the Cape Province. The Freedom Trail tracks most of the major mountain systems of South Africa.

For twenty years mountain bikers have been following the Freedom Trail, initially set up by founder Dave Waddilove. Once a year, in challenging winter conditions, the Race Across South Africa is held. Those that manage to finish the event within the 26 day cut-off receive a coveted Basuto blanket.

The race is exceptionally hard on body, mind and soul. The rewards however are well worth the effort. A unique chance to encounter a slice of our beautiful country and people that few get to experience. Those that ride become part of a Freedom community that holds the event very close to its heart.

With that in mind we asked Bruce Backhouse if he would accept an artist residency to travel with us along the trail. Bruce accepted and became our Freedom Artist. The outcome is a series of paintings that not only document the journey over the endless vistas and everchanging terrain but also capture the environment the riders experience – “I have been there” or “It looks like a place I have seen before”.

The Freedom Trail community has for many years contributed to the Freedom Trail Scholarship Fund, an initiative that has funded the secondary education of many of the local students. A significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of Bruce’s works will be used for this purpose.