Willem Hermanus Coetzer was born in Cape Town, South Africa 1900 – 1983.
Willem Coetzer lived in Johannesburg from two years old. His father died when he was very young. Willem began to contribute to family income by making sketches, which his mother coloured. In 1917 he was trained as a coach-builder at Johannesburg Trade School he continued in this trade for eight years whilst he studied painting by correspondence with Press Art School’ London.
In 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. He then returned to South Africa and painted in his spare time.
In 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.
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. He returned to South Africa where he began to enjoy an Afrikaner following 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 returned to Europe and spent nine months studying figure-drawing and painting. He visited people and places connected with this history and became an expert on costume and equipment of the period.
In 1938 he was commissioned to design the Great Trek Commemorative Postage Stamps.
Willem Coetzer was awarded a Special Gold Medal by the South African Academy in recognition of his historical work.
His art can be viewed publicly at the South African National Art Gallery in Cape Town, Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; Bloemfontein War Museum; Rembrandt Art Foundation; Pietersburg Collection and Queen Elizabeth II, United Kingdom.