William Timlin

Born: 1893, Northumberland, England Died: 1943, Kimberley, Northern Cape

William Timlin was born in Nothumberland, England, the son of a colliery foreman. He showed a talent for drawing at Morpeth Grammar School, and received a scholarship to the Armstrong College of Art in Newcastle. In 1912 he joined his parents in South Africa where he completed his training in art and architecture and remained in South Africa for the rest of his life.

Timlin went on to design a number of important buildings in Kimberly, including Kimberly Boys’ High School while pursuing his interest in art, turning out a large amount of watercolour fantasies in addition to oils, pastels, etchings and periodic illustrations. His work was regularly exhibited. He also wrote stories and composed music.

In 1921 Timlin worked on “The Ship that Sailed to Mars” for two years. It was started as a diversion for his son. The work expanded until it had 48 pages of text and 48 colour plates showing remarkable flights of fantasy. He sent the book to publishers “George Harrap” who were delighted with the illustrations and calligraphic text. They decided to go to print without typesetting the work. This book has since become a fantasy classic.

Timlin illustrated many South African travel books and prepared illustrations for a book titled “The Building of a Fairy City” which was never published.

Artist CV

Art Education

Armstrong College of Art, Newcastle, United Kingdom. Architecture and art in Kimberley.

Short Artist Biography

From his earliest youth a most talented draftsman. William Timlin studied art at Morpeth Grammar School, winning a scholarship to Armstrong College. 1912: William Timlin followed his parents to Kimberley; apprenticed to DW Greatbatch - architect; passed with honours in art exams of South Kensington Board of Education, held in Kimberley.

- 1914: William Timlin founded Art Section of Kimberley's Athenaeum Club; began exhibiting illustrations and fantasies in pen and watercolour; later, South African landscapes in etchings, pastels and oils; member of South African Society of Artists; well received in South Africa at the time and popular in USA; wrote stories and music; prepared numerous commissioned illuminations; William Timlin designed first cover for `The Outspan'; illustrated books of plays and poetry.

- 1923: William Timlin published `The Ship that Sailed to Mars', a fantasy for which film-rights were purchased in the USA, but the film - to be entitled `Get Off the Earth' - was never completed; active member of South African Institute.

- 1927: Published `South Africa', a series of pencil sketches; began to build up a series of fantasy paintings for a book to be entitled `The Building of a Fairy City'; wrote the text, but never completed the project; numerous paintings of scenes for the book exist in various South African collections.

- 1936: William Timlin visited Java via Zanzibar - Zanzibar pencil-drawings and Balinese paintings.

- 1939: William Timlin second trip to Java. All this time a successful practising architect in partnership with his original employer; designed Kimberley Hospital, Boys' High School, Girls' High School, War Memorial; also noted for fantastic interior decor of Johannesburg's Colosseum Theatre. Member of Institute of South African Architects, Licentiate of Royal Institute of British Architects. Illustrated `Out of the Crucible' by Hedley Chilvers, `Kees van die Kalahari' and other books by GC and SB Hobson; also many stories by notable writers in `The Outspan'. William Timlin elected Fellow of South African Society of Artists. His familiar emblem - an owl - resulted from the accidental killing of a snowy owl while on an early shooting expedition with his father on the Gaap Plateau. Distressed, he resolved to immortalize it in his work.

- 1943: William Timlin died as a result of pneumonia after fracturing his arm in a fall.


- 1914: one-man art exhibitions in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kimberley; group art exhibitions with South African Society of Artists and provincial societies.

- 1924: South African Art, Empire Exhibition, Wembley.

- 1927: Inaugural Exhibition, South African Institute, Durban.

- 1936: Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg.

- 1964: Memorial Exhibition, William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley.

Public Art Collections

William Humphreys Gallery, Kmberely; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; AC White Gallery, Bloemfontein; Albany Museum, Grahamstown


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