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Willem Coetzer - South African Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - Willem Coetzer (1900 - 1983)

Willem Hermanus Coetzer was born in Cape Town, South Africa 1900 - 1983

Art Education
- 1925 In galleries and museums in London
- 1928 – 1939 Regent Street Polytechnic, London. Toured European museums
- 1934 Central School of Art, London

Short Artist Biography
- Willem Coetzer lived in Johannesburg since he was two years old. His father died when he was very young.
- 1912 Willem Coetzer began to contribute to family income by making sketches, which his mother coloured.
- 1917 Willem Coetzer was trained as a coach-builder at Johannesburg Trade School; continued in this trade for eight years; studied painting by correspondence with Press Art School’ London.
- 1925 Willem Coetzer went to London to study art but, lacking sufficient money to enter an art school, he trudged around the museums making pencil copies of famous compositions. Returned to South Africa, painted in his spare time.
- 1928 Assisted by Alfred Palmer, Ernest Lezard and Edward Roworth, Willem Coetzer held an exhibition in Johannesburg on which he sold enough work to afford to return to London.
- 1928 – 1930 Through Palmer’s influence he was admitted to Regent Street Polytechnic, where he won a prize for his painting ’The Dusty Shelf, now in the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Traveled around Europe on a bicycle, covering 3 000 miles at a total expenditure of R18.
- 1930 Willem Coetzer returned to South Africa where he began to enjoy an Afrikaner following.
- 1934 Despite his English education, he became very conscious of his Afrikaans heritage and resolved to portray the history and spirit of Afrikanerdom in his art. He therefore returned to Europe and spent nine months studying figure-drawing and painting. He began collecting Africana and conducting research into the history and life of the Voortrekker period; he visited people and places connected with this history; became an expert on costume and equipment of the period.
- 1938 Willem Coetzer designed the Great Trek Commemorative Postage Stamps.
- 1947 He published ‘My Kwas Vertel’ – a book of his sketches and designs relating to South African historical subjects.
- 1948 Co Founder with WE Gladstone Solomon of Brush and Chisel Club; designed the marble friezes and tapestries for the National Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria.
- 1965 Willem Coetzer was awarded a Special Gold Medal by the South African Akademie in recognition of his historical work.
- 1969 Presented his complete oeuvre of 800 etchings to the City of Johannesburg. Long-time member of Africana Museum Advisory Committee. Paintings reproduced by E Schweikerdt (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria.
- 1980 Widespread tribute on his 80th birthday; published his autobiography, ‘WH Coetzer 80’.

Art Exhibitions
- 1928 First Art Exhibition at Lezard’s Johannesburg. (40 Pastels of which 34 were sold for a total sum of R400). Numerous exhibitions in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Stellenbosch.
- 1948 Overseas Exhibition of South African Art, Tate Gallery, London, et al.
- 1952 Van Riebeeck Tercent Art Exhibition, Cape Town.
- 1970 Retrospective Exhibition of historical paintings, RAU.
- 1971 ‘Johannesburg Artists’, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Diamond Jubilee Exhibition.
- 1972 Exhibition of etching oeuvre, Johannesburg Public Library.
- 1974 Retrospective Art Exhibition of still-life paintings, Johannesburg.

- 1938 Great Trek Commemorative Postage Stamps.
- 1948 Design of marble friezes and tapestries, Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria.
- 1963 Historical mural, Transvaal Province Admin Buildings, Pretoria.
- Portraits : i.a. The Hon JG Strijdom, Dr DF Malan, General JBM Hertzog, Referent JD Kestell, Jan Celliers, ‘Totius’, Dr Robert Broom.

Public Art collections
South African National Art Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London; AC White Art Gallery, Bloemfontein; Bloemfontein War Museum; Africana Museum, Johannesburg; Hester Rupert Art Museum, GR; Rembrandt Art Foundation; Pietersburg Collection; Queen Elizabeth II, United Kingdom.


Berman, E. 1994. Art & Artists of South Africa . Southern Book Publishers.

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