TITTA FASCIOTTI (1927 – 1993)

The Passionate Artist


I had only been going to Johan Oldert for art lessons for a short while when one evening there was a sudden commotion outside and a minute later a shortish, stocky man strode in. This was Titta Fasciotti, artist. He had the darkest, most penetrating eyes I’d ever seen on anyone, and his demeanour was that of someone who was on a mission. Titta was one of those people who seemed to be an artist twenty four hours a day. He glanced at what was going on in the studio and dismissed it as being of little interest. In his world it was excellence or nothing.


Titta was incredibly touchy and took strong exception to my calling him Titta without his permission (I had been introduced to him as Titta). Respect was something he really valued and craved and I later came to understand why this was so important to him.  It was because he was the son of an Italian prisoner of war. He seemed to believe that South African people looked down on him because of this and no amount of reassurance seemed to reassure him. It could be that this belief was the driving force in his never ending search for excellence and perfection.


In spite of this bit of baggage he carried, he was a good and loyal friend and generous with advice, knowledge and with his work too. I remember one day when he had been very critical of some of my paintings, he sat down and spent more than two hours showing me what he felt I should have done. The result was a beautiful painting which he then signed and gave to me. It is one of my most prized possessions.


When I moved to Durban, he on several occasions came and used my studio while down here, and this gave me the opportunity to really get to know him – if one could ever know this complex and brilliant artist. He taught me so much during this period even though cleaning up after him was a bit of a nightmare. Titta would unscrew the lids of paint-tubes and throw them away. The brush handles were covered with paint and once I even had to remove paint from the ceiling. Watching him work explained this. Painting to Titta was like going into battle. He would spend long moments absorbing and thinking about his subject and then rush at the canvas and paint in almost a frenzy. After a bit he would step back and glare at what he done and then then after a period of deep contemplation (during which you spoke to him at your peril) he would attack again. The results were always astounding.  To me he was the ultimate artist. His knowledge of light, colour and composition were unrivalled. I remember him urging me to study composition. He said that 70% of paintings that failed were because of poor composition. No matter how good you were at everything else if the composition was not right the painting would fail. He was right. He generally was.


Titta had a strange way of working and managing his time. He would be idle literally for months. He would ride his bike and visit friends (especially the girls. He loved the girls). I do not know what triggered his urge to paint. It could have been his money running low or something in his mental clock, but at a point he would virtually lock himself away and paint with great urgency and in a sort of unbridled fury.  After some weeks he would re-emerge with a dozen or two of the most beautiful paintings. He would be exhausted and so the cycle would repeat itself.


I remember a party we held for the artist before his exhibition at Neil Sack Gallery in Durban, and to which many artists and dealers were invited. At this party the painter Roy Taylor asked him about his way of working (Roy was the most disciplined and even rigid artist when it came to working) and Titta took this as an insinuation that he was lazy. His Latin blood boiled and we had to intervene as those dark eyes turned black and he was already rolling up his sleeves. Roy apologised and they ended the evening as great friends.


Another anecdote is that Titta Fasciotti was walking down the street in the centre of Durban  one day when he noticed a dealer displaying a very mixed array of paintings in the banking hall of a well-known Building Society (do you remember those?) He noticed that some of his own work was on display and he did not approve of some of the work he was being shown with. He approached the dealer and asked him where he had obtained his (Fasciotti) work. ‘Why’ asked the man.  Titta responded by saying “Because I don’t like my work being seen with this stuff”. The dealer bristled and said “That is too bad because it’s mine – I bought it.” Titta didn’t say a word but took note of the prices and came back a short while later with a bag of cash and bought all his work at the retail price and removed it.


I have no doubt that Fasciotti considered himself a South African. He loved the country and all the people in all their rainbow hues and revelled in painting the countryside, its exotic peoples and the skies. He was the ultimate landscape painter and his African figures too are legendary.


He was born in Bergamo Italy in 1927. When he was about seventeen he went and studied at the Accadamia Carrara Bergamo for a number of years. In 1948 Titta came to South Africa and joined his dad who had been interned here as a prisoner of war. He worked as an apprentice to his artist father who signed his paintings ‘Scotty’ after the war, and so did Titta. There are still a number of those paintings around and they may be Titta’s work or his dad Gino’s. You can fairly easily tell them apart.  Johan Oldert once told me that the night after old man Fasciotti died Titta came to his home almost jubilant and felt that he had been liberated, and so he had.  The Fasciotti style that we came to know and love was probably started when he went to W.G Wiles for tuition (as did many of our well known artists of that time). He told me that at one stage he (and at times Adriaan Boshof) had moved from farm to farm (especially in the then OFS and Karoo) painting. They would give the farmer a painting or two for board and allowing them free range of the farm, and in many cases the farmer would then organise for them to go to the farms of friends or family, and so they worked their way around the country. They certainly worked in their 10,000 hours in the best possible way. (See The book ‘The Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell)


Another peep into the way Titta worked was shared with me by a gallery owner and friend of his at Fishoek, Western Cape, who told me that the artist came and stayed with him to paint the sea from time to time. For the first couple of days Titta would go off armed with only an apple or two, and spend all day just looking at and gazing at the ocean. No dashing around with a camera happy-snapping here and there.  Once he had the ocean, its movements, colours and moods firmly embedded in his sub-conscious mind he would start sketching. Tiny little post-card sized sketches that were masterpieces in their own right. Only after that would he consider painting or taking photos – almost always slides, that were equally as beautiful in their composition and selection as his sketches and paintings.


In his youth Titta married Theresa, an opera singer, and was devoted to her for many years. It came with great surprise to many of us when we heard that they had divorced, but this was tempered by the news that he was relocating from Johannesburg to the KZN South Coast. We would not have been so pleased if we had known that his time here with us would be cut short by a shocking event.


His arrival at Port Edward could be seen as a watershed for both Titta and especially artist Anton Benzon who Titta took under his wing. Titta and Anton’s dad Johan Oldert had been close friends and it seemed natural that he and Anton would also become friends. Titta remarried but it was short- lived and sadly happiness seemed to elude this very gifted man. The last time I saw him he had come to tell me he was moving to Hillcrest in KZN. It came as a great shock when literally weeks later we heard he had been found murdered in the cane fields near Leisure Bay on the KZN South Coast. We were all in shock and could not believe the news.


Titta was a really complex but brilliant man and artist. ‘Okay’ was not in his vocabulary. Every painting had to be the best. He set an artistic benchmark that kept all the artists of that time on their toes. His premature passing was a great blow to art in this country. No-one who knew him or was exposed to his work can truthfully say they were not touched by him. The visual arts in South African and the new artists that came after him are the poorer for not enjoying the very high standards of excellence that he set. We cannot and must not forget Titta Fasciotti a truly passionate Artist!




  • Colleen

    Great tribute to an artist. Thank you John for introducing those like me, who otherwise would never have known the man behind the paintings.

  • John Smith

    Thanks Colleen. Many of the artists were fantastic personalities and read better than most fiction. A pity not more is done to to documant them. Thanks for your comments!

  • Leo Reid

    Reading about Titta and the wonderful character scetches about him, brought back many memories of watching Titta give budding artists like my DAD, THE WATFOR, for not concentrating on his advice. Many atime I would panic as he would encourage me , age 15, to start painting. I was more than happy to be an unseen spectator. Your description of Titta being volitile brought back many memories of watching at work near Kloof gorge or in and around Hillcrest.If only one were in a position to realise how close we get to being taught by a master artist, how I regret deeply never being brave enough to persue then what painting I do now age 68. Yet one compensation is that life is made of memories of times past and especially the people we meet . Further to your times with Titta, I have a very clear memory of Titta and Tereasa at their home in Abery road Hillcrest. Dad bought a picture of a dirt road through a gum forest in hillcrest from Titta, must have been +_ about 1964 or 5 the painting measured 700x500mm inside the frame. Thank you for all the good comments about a wonderful artist.
    Leo Reid.

    ick when to my dismay he would turn to me and invite me to start painting by thrustin a brush at me

  • John Smith

    My pleasure Leo. I”m pleased you enjoyed the article!

    • John Smith

      Thanks for your response to my article!


  • Wynand Bezuidenhout

    hi my father in law have 2 of his paintings sigh T Scotty can you help us to find out the value on it

    • John Smith

      I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to reply but you will have to take them to a gallery that deals with Titta’s work.
      Kind regards

  • debbie mayne

    Dear John
    Titta and Theresa were great friends of my parents until their death. I spent many holidays with them and remember them both fondly and have lots of Fasciotti paintings adorning my home. Do you have a landline I can call you on please? or and email address.
    Kind regards.

    • John Smith

      My e-mail is < Debbie!

  • Fulvio Casciola

    Hi John,
    My mother recently moved into a retirement home and I received some of my parents’ paintings. They include Fasciotti’s – scenes of Natal and Transvaal as well as a stunning sketch of my grandfather done by Titta’s father when they were both interned in Koffiefontein. Reading your article has given these pictures so much more meaning.
    Fulvio Casciola
    Victoria, BC, Canada.

  • Jake Alberts

    Hi John,
    I bought a Fasciotti many years ago on advice from Maureen Duarte who has the Gallery at Sanlameer , and have for years wondered about his story. Thank you for this insight into his life at last I can look at his painting with new respect.

    • John Smith

      I’m really pleased to hear that my article filled some gaps Jake. Titta was a really wonderful and committed artist!

    • John Smith

      That is great Jake – enjoy 🙂

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  • Jill Green

    I have found a T Scotty painting oil on canvas Going Home Karoo Cape in my late parents home. Do you have any idea where I can find someone to give me a value. I reside in Pretoria

    • John Smith

      Henry Taylor Gallery – Johannesburg!

  • Jill Green

    I have found a T Scotty oil on canvas ” Going Home Karol Cape in my late parents home. Could you please guide to to a gallery that can give me a value. I reside in Pretoria

    • John Smith

      Hi Jill, I think your best bet would be to try the Henry Taylor Gallery in Johannesburg. I do not have their number but it should be in the book. Speak to Henry Taylor.
      Good Luck!

  • Patricia Finlay

    Hi John

    I was very interested to hear that Fasciotti came to Fish Hoek. I have 2 sketches from him which I inherited from my father in law who lived in Fish Hoek so I was wondering who his friend was that lived in Fish Hoek? I presume he bought the sketches from him?

  • craig hounsom

    Hi John, we look forward to meeting you and please excuse the delay in that regard. This graphic & touching article of yours could be a catalyst script for documentary or short movie on Titta Fasciotti. Maybe a collaboration with a fellow artist like Andrew Verster? We met Anton Benzon a few weeks ago outside the Ramsgate studio. He said something like , Fasciotti was on his way to becoming the greatest prior to his tragic death. Loyalty once gained , lasted. The day will come when his art prices will take off , as collectors sense the Fascination of Fasciotti , including his father. God bless. Craig Hounsom.

  • Pam Barton

    Hi John,
    Thank you so much for your interesting commentary on the life and work of Titta Fasciotti. I have one of his seascapes hanging on my wall in Australia. I was interested to read the comment by Debbie Mayne, as we met Titta when he was staying with her parents in Ballito Bay. We were staying next door and Titta painted the seascape and gave it to my mother-in-law, Ruth Barton. As you mentioned in your article, he liked women, and I think his gift was an acknowledgment of a very attractive lady!

  • Ian Duncan

    Good day John
    Very interesting thanks so much.
    I have a Titta how could i find out year and value.although will not sell.
    Have many Wendy Rosselli also.
    Kind regards
    Ian Duncan

  • Frank S Howard

    Dear John,
    While I was working/travelling in SA bought a Titta Fasciotti painting ( a Karoo image) in an exhibition of his in Capetown in 1975, it still hangs in my livingroom in NSW Aust.
    He certainly had an interesting life, what a tragic end.
    It has been interesting to learn more about the artist whose painting we enjoy.
    Kind regards
    Frank Howard

  • Frank S Howard

    Hi John,
    When working in Capetown in the mid seventies I bought a Titta Fasciotti, of the Karoo, it gives me me much enjoyment and takes me back to a great time.
    It was very sad to read his short life’s story, thank you.
    The work hangs in my living room in NSW.
    Kind regards,
    Frank Howard

  • Patrick

    Hi John.
    I came across two paintings signed FA Scotty and I read somewhere that the family were all artist. Is this in anyway related to the Fasciotti family?

  • John Smith

    Thank you Fulvio for your story, and to all of you lovely people who responded to the article.
    I’m pleased to see how many people Titta touched by his art.
    Apologies for taking so long to respond. I did not find your comments till now.
    4th January 2024

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