After earning a degree in politics from Witwatersrand University in 1976, Kentridge spent the next decade pursuing his interests in both drawing and theatre, studying at the Johannesburg Art Foundation and the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, and working with the Junction Avenue Theatre Company.
By the late 1980s, Kentridge had begun the oeuvre for which he has become best known – an innovative fusion of charcoal drawing, animation, film and theatre, including the animation based on a succession of drawn, erased and redrawn charcoal images that he created for multi-media theatre pieces made with the Handspring Puppet Company, and his celebrated “Nine Drawings for Projection” film series.
In 2010, a major retrospective, William Kentridge: Five Themes, was held at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), while the premiere of his staging of Shostakovich’s The Nose took place at the Metropolitan Opera. “It is hard to remember when a visual artist has cut such a wide swath in the city’s cultural life, or spanned so many disciplines with such aplomb,” said Calvin Tomkins in the New Yorker.
Kentridge’s work has been featured at museums and exhibitions in New York, London, Sydney, Rome, Tokyo and São Paulo. Kentridge received the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy in 2010, and was elected as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011. In 2012, he delivered the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. In 2013, he received the title Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres from the French government and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Yale University.