Walter Battiss - The Man

Walter Battiss was born in Somerset East, the eldest of three children, to Walter Battiss and Louise Price.  Walter Senior was a top athlete, with many trophies for cycling and running.  Louise came from England, where she had worked for a top book publisher; she had been tasked with binding Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's private photograph albums. Young Walter definitely got his artistic bent from her.  With her encouragment, he began drawing at a very eary age, and literally never stopped.

Walter matriculated at the age of 17 in Fauresmith, and began work as a law clerk in Rustenburg, at his father's urging.  He managed to get himself transferred to Johannesburg where he began to work for his teacher's diploma and his art degree.

He taught Art and English for almost thirty years at Pretoria High School for Boys; many of his ex pupils who visit the Battiss Museum have great stories to tell about his sense of fun, and unconventional teaching methods.


  • 1923   Matriculated in Fauresmith
  • 1927   First one-man exhibition, in Rustenburg, aged 21
  • 1929   Studied drawing for three weeks at Wits Tech Art School
  • 1932   Received a teacher's diploma - Johannesburg Training School
  • 1938   Taught art - with interruptions - at Pretoria Boys High for 30 years
  • 1939   Was a member of th New Group, their first exhibition
  • 1939   Published his first book - The Amazing Bushmen
  • 1940   Married Grace Anderson 
  • 1941   Earned Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at UNISA
  • 1944   Exhibited copies of Rock Art in Johannesburg
  • 1955   Painted several murals in Pretoria and Johannesburg
  • 1960   Six month tenure as Head of Fine Arts at Rhodes, returned to PHSB
  • 1964   Professor of Fine Arts, UNISA
  • 1975   First "Fook Island" exhibition with Norman Catherine
  • 1979   His last exhibition, of watercolours, in Nuremburg, Germany
  • 1981   Walter Battiss Art Museum opened in Somerset East
  • 1982   Died in Port Shepstone, Natal, aged 76

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