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Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Remembering Jersey artist Bob Tilling (1944-2011)

Robert Tilling MBE (1944-2011)

Tributes have been paid to well known Jersey artist, Bob Tilling, who died on Tuesday aged 67, after a long battle with cancer.

Bob was the only Royal Institute of Water Colour painters member in Jersey.

He came to Jersey in the late 1960s as the newly appointed Head of Art at Victoria College.

Rod McLoughlin, Jersey's cultural development officer, remembers him as a great teacher and someone who was an inspiration to others.

He said: "I knew him as a pupil at Victoria College where he was the head of art, perhaps I wasn't his star pupil at the time.

Robert Tilling drawing
What I love about Bob was that he was always pushing the boundaries of his art and trying new things.
David Barnett, Studio 18

"Later on in life I think knowing him and being able to follow him and have things explained to me in a fresh way, my art education started long after I left school. He made me look at things in a fresh way."

Jersey's former Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache, was a friend of Robert Tilling and said he will remembered his sense of humour.

He said: "I will remember Robert as a very fine artist, I will remember him as one of my closest friends.

"I will remember forever the tremendously exuberant and vital sense of humour he had."

Over his career Bob has held 28 solo exhibitions including some at the Barbican centre, Jersey Museum, Exeter University and the Jersey Arts Centre.

His work is also held in many private and public collections around the world.

Great painters

David Barnett from Studio 18, where Bob would exhibit his work, said he would remember him as one of the island's great painters.

He said he was up there with the likes of Edmund Blampied.

Bob Tilling
Bob came to Jersey in the late 1960s to work as the head of art at Victoria College

"He will be known and will always be known for his wonderful watercolours and the lovely washes he put into his watercolours.

"But what I love about Bob was that he was always pushing the boundaries of his art and trying new things.

"Only within the last six months he brought some new paintings in which were totally different to what he had done before."

Jerry Jackson, a Jersey musician said Bob's fellow musicians would remember him for a long time to come.

"He was a fine acoustic blues guitar player, a world historian on the blues, what he didn't know about the blues was not worth knowing.

"He played live in many clubs in Jersey, was patron of the world music festival and only a few weeks ago we went out for an evening and played together.

"He supported all live music as well as playing himself," said Jerry.

Have your say
Share your memories of Bob Tilling MBE as an artist, musician, teacher and person.

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Orville, Seattle, WA, USA

I met Bob and Thelma when we were on the teaching staff together at several sessions of the International Guitar Seminar. He was a tremendously talented artist in many fields but the traits I will remember most and try to keep in my own life were his caring, insightful way with people and, above all, his kindness. Every person who knew him felt his friendship. The world is a sadder place today for his loss.

Jen, Devon

great uncle robert you were amazing person you will be very missed xxx

John, St Ouen

Although we knew that Bob was very ill, I was shocked last night to hear the sad news of his death. Bob had such a huge presence that that I really hoped that somehow he might succeed in overcoming his illness. His passing is such a great loss to the Island.

His achievements in the Arts world as a performer , an artist , a teacher , an inspirer and leaders throughout four decades are outstanding, others much better qualified than I will attest to that in volumes in the months years to come, we are fortunate he has left a legacy of such a wealth of fine works. Yet he was always a modest man who would encourage, spot the talents of others and freely and generously recognise their contribution, deflecting the praise offered to him towards other people.

Bob had such a positive and outgoing attitude to life which raised the spirits of everybody he came into contact with, transmitting his enthusiasm, energy and his love of life to others. Bob was one of the founding members of the Jersey Arts Centre and took a lead role for many years in making what it is today. He was chairman and an inspiring leader in its role in music and the visual arts. Without his efforts the Arts Centre would not be as it is today. Bob encouraged supported and inspired me and I feel hugely privileged to have known him.

Bob's open and easy manner with a huge sense of fun and humour built him a large circle of friends in his adopted Island and throughout the world. Truly his family , his friends, fellow artists , the Jersey Arts Centre and the whole Island Community have lost one of its most loved and inspirational characters. Our thoughts are today with his wife Thelma and his two daughters.


Robert was my great uncle, and he will be greatly missed. I've been trying to follow in his foot steps as i'm currently doing a degree in fine art which I hope will make him proud.

Martin, Kingston Upon Thames

I met Rob and Thelma just once in August last year. I spent the most fascinating morning with him, talking about his life, his experiences and about the remarkable mill house that he lived in complete with the most brilliant collection of art works.

He started teaching at the school where I have been a master for some 38 years. Sadly our time here at Tiffin, Kingston Upon Thames, never coincided but I will cherish the memory of that morning I was fortunate enough to spend with him.

Clive, Manila, Philippines

I grew up with Robert, residing a small road with just 12 houses, in Bristol UK.

The Tillings, along with brother Peter, just 3 years old, moved into house No3 on 5TH September 1936, The day my parents were married and they moved into No5.

His father Tom, a policeman and mother Vera became my much loved second mum and dad, and even in those early years, Roberts humour was evident, as he always used his affectionate term of "our Ver" when speaking of his mother. She loved it.

Did you know those artistic hands used to throw a rugby ball, and as in his work he gave his all when playing the game.

Yet it was at the Local Comprehensive school where Robert excelled in Art. His teacher recognised that tallent and placed him on the path to the success we all know today.

This success saw him applying for a teaching post at well known University, and possibly rowing in their 8's row boat. He came 2nd in that race.

That University's loss was Victoria gain.

Robert loved his work, and with Thelma and the introduction of their own patter of tiny feet, Robet was happy and content on the Island he loved, and his MBE was a fitting reward for all his efforts.

Robert, you were a great guy, a true friend and above all else a Gentleman.

I was proud to have been part of your life.

Eddie, Freiburg, Germany

Very sad news indeed. I met Bob at the International Guitar Seminars start up in New York in 1999. He was a friend and pupil of the Rev. Gary Davis and publish a biography on him "Oh, What A Beautiful City: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis 1896-1972"

For an American view of Bob, here's a link to the IGS Forum

Chris, St Ouen

Mr Bob Tilling, or Sir as we called him at school, was a mentor, an inspirer and a friend. He continually demanded we, as students, worked harder at our lives, not just at our art. He expected the best from us and in return gave us his, sharing his passion for and knowledege of art and music too. A great man of wisdom and experience, he was the driving force behind my later school years and his ethos subsequently took me through University and remains with mento this day.. Thank you Bob for your ferocious drive, your love of life and your kindness.

Suzanne, Long Ashton (nr Bristol)

I first met Robert and his wife, through the connection with his dear mother. We became friends and spent some time with them whilst visitng Jersey. A man blessed with many talents and yet so modest. He was an inspiration and will be missed by so many whose lives he has touched.

Simon, St Ouen (now Victoria, BC, Canada)

It's only now in later life that I really appreciate Bob's passion for art, teaching and hard work. As a student of his through GCSE's and A-Level Art I still remember the daunting feeling of coming into class hoping that your work was up to scratch, because believe me, he'd let you know if it wasn't ;) I am proud to say that I still use by artistic talents today as a graphic designer & art director. Without Bob Tilling I think my path in life may have been different and not as fulfilling. Thanks Bob.

Beckie, St Helier

What a lovely man - He welcomed me into his beautiful home when I arrived in Jersey. Such a talented man, who was clearly respected by so many people in the island and had so many great stories to tell.

John, St John

Bob Tilling

Have a look at this photo which, to me, sums up Bob's generosity of spirit. He was always so generous with his time, energy and talent. The pupil by the way is my grandson who thought of Bob as his hero.


Murray Norton, St Brelade

Bob, had an amazing knowledge of music and was an excellent and interesting guest to interview on many occasions. With the knowledge came an on-air generosity and dry sense of humour. I will remember the times in the studio with fondness.

Bob, St Saviour

My fondest memory of Bob was in the late sixties early seventies playing basketball for the old Hautlieuns, his height was an advantage and we had some fantastic games. Is there anybody else who would remember those times?. My best wishes to his wife and Family, Bob Samson.

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