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The artist behind the books frontpage – Peter Bilas from South Africa

Peter Bilas was born in Austria in 1952 and began painting as a hobby at the age of 15 in order to satiate a fascination with ships. Peter has dedicated himself entirely to marine art. He has held numerous exhibitions in South Africa and he is regularly invited to participate in the annual international marine exhibition at Mystic Seaport in the USA, one of the largest and most prestigious maritime galleries in the world. Peter has dedicated himself to chronicling South African maritime history.

South Africa has very few artists recording its maritime past and present events. Peter has a sharp eye for detail and a strong feeling for the sea. He holds a vast library and studies the history of each ship in detail before he portrays it on canvas. Peter’s concern for technical accuracy is reflected in his paintings of sailing ships with their detailed rigging and the correct setting of the sails. Peter says this of his work “I feel that there is no need to defend realistic paintings when portraying the sea and ships, since photography really succeeds in communicating the constantly changing face of the sea. Furthermore, painting the sea with its extremes of moods is essentially a work of impressionism.

Contrasting this impressionism with the detailed and accurate study of a ship results in a painting that appeals as much to the emotions as the intellect.” Peter’s work is represented in collections worldwide. In 1996 Peter’s stamp design to mark the Safmarine’s 50th Anniversary was voted the best stamp design. Peter has produced work for a number of books. It is not often that there are paintings by this artist on offer as he works primarily on commissioned pieces.


Peter Bilas: Living in Cape Town is of advantage because all the world’s shipping had to come around the Cape of Good Hope

Dear Bjarne,
Thanks for your e-mail, I am looking forward to the English version. The Flying Enterprise sinking was quite a story, although I can’t remember the exact details. The painting was done in 1986 for a British calendar, and it gave me a lot of pleasure working on it. As far as I remember there is a museum of the Flying Enterprise somewhere either in the UK or in Denmark?
Wasn’t there a story that some secret stuff was loaded on the ship? I am looking forward to reading the full account. What is your particular interest in Captain Carlsen? Quite an enterprise to publish a book yourself. I hope it will do well for you.
Some details about me as requested:
I was born in Austria but emigrated to South Africa in 1974. Initially I worked as a computer engineer, but in 1982 I turned my hobby of painting into a profession and have been doing this ever since. I am fascinated by ships and the sea, and these are my only subjects.
My main interest is sailing ships, of all periods, but the 18th century ones are the nicest. But I have done many other vessels as well, even container-ships. I also love warships of the WWI and WWII period.
Living in Cape Town is of advantage because all the world’s shipping had to come around the Cape of Good Hope, thus there is great scope for depicting ships throughout history right from the time of Vasco Da Gama.
Kind regards



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  2. Hullo Peter
    Loved the painting of the Prince Rupert on the cover of “wrecked,under the greenpoint light”
    My ancestor Richard Currin and family were on board the night the Prince Rupert struck the rocks.
    I have been searching everywhere for a ships plan of the ship for our research records . Do you happen to know where I can start here in South Africa.we live in Riversdale
    Thank you for making the ship so realistic
    Stafford Currin

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