Bettie Cilliers-Barnard is the doyenne of South African artists and has received worldwide recognition for her artistic creations. She was born Elizabeth Petronella (Bettie) Barnard on 18 November 1914 in Rustenburg and matriculated at the Rustenburg High school in 1933. She then enrolled for a BA-degree at the University of Pretoria in 1935 and completed the degree after three years in 1937. In 1938 she began her career as an art teacher at the Innesdale Intermediary School. From 1939 on she was lecturer in art at the “Normaakollege” in Pretoria for three years, where she taught art to future art teachers.
When Bettie Cilliers-Barnard enrolled as a first-year student at the University of Pretoria in 1935, she established an unparalleled, loyal link with her alma mater that would cover almost three quarters of a century. Her marriage to Carel Hancke (Bags) Cilliers in 1942 contributed to further reinforcing her ties with Tuks. Bags entered the service of the University in 1945 and retired as Director of the Bureau for Public Relations in 1980. During this period, the Cilliers couple made an exceptional contribution in developing and promoting art and cultural activities on and off campus.