Charles Meredith Bleach

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C.M. Bleach (b. Portsmouth, Hampshire **/**/1880 – d. Clovelly, Cape Town, 23/10/1957) was a soldier-artist and one-time actor.


Credited as C.M. Bleach, Charles Meredith Bleach took the role of Dalmayne in the film version of George H. Cossins's novel Isban Israel: a South African Story. Directed by Joseph Albrecht for African Film Productions, it was released as Isban; or, The Mystery of the Great Zimbabwe (1919) in South Africa, but shown elsewhere as The Buried City.

He was born in Portsmouth, where his father was a gunner in the Royal Navy and, according to the 1901 Census, at the age of 20 he was a commercial clerk. Not long afterwards he came to South Africa, served in the South African War (Scott’s Railway Guards) and began to develop his talents as an artist. He was a pupil of John Henry Amshewitz, who lived in South Africa between 1916 and 1922, and again from 1936 to 1942 (Amshewitz replaced Denis Santry as cartoonist on the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Times and died in Muizenberg). Bleach served as a second lieutenant in the Cape Corps in what was then Nyasaland (Malawi) during World War I and produced numerous sketches in South Africa and in German East Africa. In 1918 his business home was given as Port Elizabeth. In 1927 he was a hotel proprietor in Magaliesburg and in 1932 in Simonstown. In December 1940 he was appointed an Official War Artist, but had to relinquish his commission in August 1943 because of ill health.

After that he moved from Johannesburg to Clovelly on the False Bay coast. Clearly his art was not enough to sustain him, because at one stage his address was given as c/o African Tobacco Manufacturers in Cape Town. Esmé Berman describes Bleach as a marine painter, but he worked in various media. Besides having at least two one-man shows, he took part in various group exhibitions and painted portraits of many South African political and military personalities. He also contributed to Charles Cutler's book Humorous Sketches of the Campaign in German East Africa. His work is represented in the Africana Museum in Johannesburg, as well as in the Jeffreys Collection at the Western Cape Archives and Records Service. He was married twice, first to Louisa Landau (divorced 1925) and then, in 1929, to Eliza Eva Seton Lorimer. Eliza's son from a previous marriage, Robert Lorimer Jack-Bleach, was a war artist during World War II. (FO)


Berman, Esmé - Art & artists of South Africa

Kennedy, R.F. - Catalogue of pictures in the Africana Museum

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla - Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

Ogilvie, Grania - The dictionary of South African painters and sculptors

Parsons, Neil - Black and white bioscope: making movies in Africa 1899 to 1925

Schoonraad, Murray & Elzabé - Companion to South African cartoonists

S.A. Pictorial, 9 November 1918

Estate papers, Western Cape Archives and Records Service

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