Frans Clearhout was born in Pittem, Belgium in 1919. After completing his studies in Priesthood, he came to South Africa on a Catholic Missionary in 1946. He had to complete various language courses before being sent to the Orange Free State in 1948. He initially worked among the black people living in and around Bloemfontein.
Claerhout had no formal art training but came from an artistic family and he belonged to a local art society in his student years. In 1957 he began to sketch and paint with total dedication.
In November 1961 he held his first solo exhibition in Johannesburg South Africa. The influence of Flemish art on his paintings was evident both in atmosphere and colour. It was only later that the clear blue sky, the green, brown and yellow of the vegetation as well as the bright colours preferred by the black people left their mark on his paintings.
Although he remained fascinated with the brush and paint, experiencing oil painting on a rough, impassioned surface was his greatest challenge. Claerhout also experimented widely with other media. Modelling in clay and wood carving, wall paintings, monotypes and linocuts, stained glass set in concrete windows and a prolific stream of drawings in charcoal. Pen and ink or crayon have made him a well known and popular figure on the South African art scene.