Willem Hermanus Coetzer was born in the year 1900 in Tarkastad. He came to Johannesburg at the age of 2 and lived there for most of his life. His father, a gold miner died when Coetzer was very young. In 1925 Coetzer went to London to study art, but due to a lack of finances ended up trudging in the galleries and museums, making pencil copies of famous compositions.
Returning to South Africa, Coetzer held an exhibition with the help of some other artist to raise finances to return to London to study. Through the help of Alfred Palmer, Coetzer was admitted to the Regent Street Polytechnic (Now the University of Westminster). Coetzer then also traveled through Europe on bicycle, covering 1,300 miles with expenses covering R 18.
On his return to South Africa, Coetzer became very interested in his Afrikaner roots and embarked on the research of the life, times and artifacts of the Voortrekker period. Coetzer set out deliberately to reconstruct pictorially the history and spirit of Afrikanerdom and he has gone to endless pains to ensure the accuracy of his visual records.
In 1934 Coetzer returned to London to study figure drawing and painting before fully embarking on setting out this journey of depicting the Afrikaner.
He published ‘My Kwas Vertel’ – a book of his sketches and designs relating to South African historical subjects and was the designer of the tapestries for the National Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria
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
Coetzer passed away in 1983.