William Geller (1942)

When Bill left school in 1948, he was allowed to defer doing his National Service in order to train as an apprentice in an art studio in the City of London. Whilst there he also attended St Martin’s School of Art on day release, and on finishing his apprenticeship he was made a Freeman of the City.

In 1950 he met Olive Massey, sister of Howard Massey (1953), when he attended community dance classes at the Drill Hall in Loughton Way, Buckhurst Hill. Bill often mentioned that his reason, or excuse, for going dancing was to get his arms round a girl without getting his face slapped! A typical Bill Geller joke. They married on 31 May, 1954, at St John’s Church in Buckhurst Hill.

He did his National Service in the Royal Army Service Corps, and found himself marching in Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Parade just before being demobbed in 1953. He claimed that he was grateful to the army as the only place he ever did any physical education, including climbing up a rope, which even impressed himself!

Bill began his career working for a number of London advertising agencies in design and promotional roles, and later moved to Maldon with Industrial Control Services as their Publicity and Marketing Services Manager. Here he played a significant part in reinvigorating the local art world, particularly the Maldon Art Club, where he was later to become President. After his retirement he worked for six years as an art tutor in adult education for Essex County Council.

A young Bill

In his own words …

Sailing and drawing marine subjects have been important interests in my life as a working artist. My first picture sale was at an exhibition put on by the Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) in 1956, and was a drawing I did in pen and ink of a Norfolk Wherry loading sugar beet at Potter Higham.

The selection of my work by this influential society gave me the assurance that my drawings of marine subjects had merit. I continued to exhibit with the RSMA when possible, and my work was also included in the touring shows arranged by the Federation of British Artists (FBA).

The marine drawings were of local working craft such as barges, fishing boats and tugs. Typical of these was a study of a Thames sailing barge in Suffolk, and which I’m proud to say, was bought by the Port of London Authority.

In 1975 I began exhibiting with the Society of Graphic Artists (SGA) – now the Society of Graphic Fine Art (SGFA) – and was elected a member in 1977. Membership of the SGFA provided me with a showcase for a change of subject matter, away from the marine world, and I experimented using different mediums to portray landscapes and townscapes. I was elected President from 1979 until 1981, while also serving as a Governor of the FBA at the same time.

In 1988 Bill was made an Honorary member of the SGA in recognition of service given to the Society, and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). His work is included in 20th Century British Marine Painting by Denys Brooke-Hart. Published by the Antique Collectors Club, it described his work as clean-cut, accurate and economical drawing, which puts one in mind of the fine early work of E.W. Cooke (1811-80).

He loved Maldon where he was an active member of the community and where he would enjoy a few glasses of wine at either the Little Ship Club, the Blue Boar or the Carpenter’s Arms. He was a keen Rotary club member, and also involved with Moot Hall, the seat of local government for over 400 years, but now a museum of Maldon’s social history.

He was also very proud of Loughton School, and regularly attended our annual Reunion Dinners until 2019 when his health deteriorated. One may not be surprised to learn, therefore, that he would still stand in front of the television when the National Anthem was played!

A true gentleman, he was honoured to receive an invitation to attend a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, to which he was accompanied by his daughter Charlotte.

For those wishing to attend his funeral, this will be at the Chelmsford Crematorium on 26 January at 12.30.

William J. Geller FRSA
Born 21 Dec 1930, died 28 Dec 2023.

Our condolences to his two daughters, Caroline and Charlotte.