Martin Koch began painting and drawing at the early age of ten in his hometown of Pretoria, South Africa. His inspiration came from his natural surroundings and his passion for the wildlife that was indigenous to the area. As a boy, Koch would sketch and paint anything that he could find but it was not until he was eighteen and old enough to venture into the South African bush that he began painting the scenes of animal life for which he has become so noteworthy. By the time that he was twenty-two, Koch was known as the youngest professional artist in South Africa.
“I sell South Africa,” says Koch, who has always lived there and admits to feeling safer there than anywhere else in the world. Although he paints a variety of subjects and mediums, he is best known for his landscapes that include African wildlife. It is a subject that he is heartily devoted to. “You almost have to become one of the animals to paint them realistically. I spend weeks practically living with them, making sketches for future paintings. You can read all about animals in books, but you never really know them until you become part of their lives.” Koch sees this work as a way of preserving the land and animals that are so dear to him. “Despite the worldwide movement to save African wildlife, I think that many years from now, much of the scenery and animal life that I have painted will only be seen on canvas, as a civilization will take its toll on Africa’s natural beauty.”
Koch has been involved in several important commissions during his career. In 1967 he was asked to paint a portrait of Christopher Bernard - the surgeon who performed the world’s first heart transplant. In 1968, Koch was commissioned by the South African government to paint a 6x12 ft mural detailing the military march pass of the 5th centenary of the Republic of South Africa. The mural now hangs in the military academy in Pretoria. Pretoria is the home of Martin Koch’s studio and his works have been exhibited all over the world, including London, New York, and Kenya. Eight of Koch’s paintings hang in Kruger National Park - where he derives the inspiration for most of his paintings.
Koch’s work seeks to find truth in nature by realistically representing his subjects and landscapes. His style is one of uncompromising detail as he gives equal attention to every brushstroke which adds an almost photographic quality to the work. His canvases are further enhanced by the passion that he brings to the art of painting. For over five decades, Martin Koch has worked steadily as an artist, exploring several different mediums and subjects. “I need to live about another 400 years to paint all the things I want to paint.”