Timlin collection of loan from De Beers 

William Timlin was born in Ashington, Northumberland, England. From his earliest days he was a most talented draughtsman. He studied art at Morpeth Grammar School and won a scholarship to Armstrong College. He came to Kimberley in 1912 and was apprenticed to the architect DW Greatbatch. 

The town of Kimberley, established in 1871 was for some time largely a community of miners whose main pastimes took the form of light entertainment; sport, music hall and such legitimate theatre as was available. Organised cultural activity has its beginnings in June 1903 when the Athenaeum Club was founded. In 1914 as a recent settler and young artist-architect, William Timlin set about organising an art section for the Athenaeum, the active membership of which shrunk considerably following World War One. The continuing organisation and administration of art affairs was left to a very small group, the most notable protagonists of which were William Timlin, Arthur Pett and FW Perkins supported by William Humphreys. 

It was decided that the Art Section of the Athenaeum should create the nucleus of an art gallery for Kimberley and over the following twenty years the group sponsored a number of exhibitions and art functions to raise funds for the purchase of paintings. Several works by Timlin were included in the Athenaeum Collection which is housed in the William Humphreys Art Gallery. These have been added to over the years by purchase and donation. In 1987 a collection of sixty-six works was bought by De Beers and given to the William Humphreys Art Gallery to indefinite loan. The collection consists of paintings, drawings, watercolours and prints by William Timlin.  

Timlin was a prodigiously energetic and immensely versatile personality. He was a successful architect and with partner DW Greatbatch, he was responsible for several major buildings in Kimberley, such as; the Kimberley Hospital, Boys’ High School, Girls’ High School and the Cenotaph. He was an active organiser and the moving spirit in local cultural events. He designed seals and decorations, theatre programmes and illuminations in Johannesburg and Kimberley. He also wrote stories, books and music, illustrated periodicals and produced a vast output of paintings, etchings and pastels as well as the watercolour fantasies for which he is best known.  

Of all his fantasies the ones which retain significance are found among the studies for “The Building of a Fairy City”. This is an escape along whimsical paths leading from this profession as an architect. There is some fine structural drawing in the series and some imaginative architectural day-dreaming. His other enchanted woodlands are charming in the fairy-tale genre and the pictures from is book “The Ship that sailed to Mars” are talented illustrations. 

Destressed by the accidental killing of a snowy owl whilst on a hunting trip, Timlin resolved to immortalise it in his work as his familiar emblem.  

Humphreys collection on loan from Be Beers 

With other public buildings in the Oppenheimer Gardens in Kimberley’s Civic Centre, the William Humphreys Art Gallery epitomizes the post-war renaissance of the city after a period of virtual stagnation. In it have been brought together works of art and antique furniture of a standard and diversity which surprises and impresses those who see them for the first time. How, they wonder, does a collection of this calibre come to exist in a comparatively small mining city as Kimberley, situated as it is so far from the artistic hub of the country? 

The history of the art gallery and its collection, maybe traced back to well before 1952 when the art gallery first opened its doors to the public. Kimberley was fortunate in having, even in its early days, men with foresight and an appreciation of things other than the purely material. The history of the city’s cultural organisations in the early years of this century was the Kimberley Athenaeum, formed to promote all aspects of culture in a town which was geographically divorced from the main stream of the South African cultural activity. 

The art section of the Kimberley Athenaeum was particularly active. Under the chairmanship of Mr William Timlin, assisted by the secretary, Mr Arthur Pett, the idea was conceived of collecting South African works of art which, which it was hoped, would one day grace the walls of an art gallery in Kimberley. Over a period of almost forty years this collection, which included the work of such pioneers of South African paintings as Frans Oerder, Pieter Wenning, J.H Pierneed, Nita Spilhaus, Clement Sénèque, and William Timlin himself, was brought together. When the Kimberley Athenaeum was disbanded in 1940s the collection of artworks was given in trust to the Kimberley City Council and eventually found a permanent home in the art gallery of which these two men had dreamed so many years before. 

The second collection to find a home in the art gallery was that bequeathed to the city by Dr Max Greenberg, a Johannesburg physician who had been educated at Christian Brothers’ College in Kimberley. This collection, which comprised 55 works of art, included paintings by Pieter Wenning, Frans Oerder, J.H Pierneef, and Gregoire Boonzaier, and four bronzes by Anton van Wouw and one by Moses Kottler. Held in trust for the city by the Kimberley City Council, these were initialy displayed in the Kimberley Public Library until, on completion of the art gallery building, they were permanently housed there. Some years later, trusteeship of the collection was formally transferred to the Art Gallery Council.  

The last and most magnificent collection in the art gallery was that given by Mr William Benbow Humphreys, then member of parliament for Kimberley. The deed of donation signed on 15 October 1948 by William Humphreys and the president and the secretary of the Northern Cape Technical College states that William Humphreys in consideration of his long association with the public life of the Northern Cape and his desire to further the interests of he said region gave to the college pictures and other works of art which were selected from his private collection by Mr P Anton Hendricks, then director of the Johannesburg Art Gallery. With this gift, which comprised painting by Flemish and Dutch masters of the 16th and 17th centuries, paintings by English and French painters as well as pieces of antique furniture and other objets d’art, was an undertaking by Mr Humphreys to contribute a sum of £5 000 which would be paid to the college when required for the construction of a suitable gallery to house the collection.  

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