Tuesday, 5 April 2011

All Creatures Great & Small: The Meticulous Art of Robert Bateman

Robert McLellan Bateman
(1930 - )
Image courtesy of: http://www.swotti.com

When I am at work painting a wildlife subject, I find myself almost unconsciously entering into the life of the animal, imagining its own perception of itself and the world.

Lynx (Drawing)

Cougar (Drawing)

Wolves (Drawing)

Bison (Drawing)

Descending Osprey

Bohemian Waxwings
The above six images are courtesy of: http://www.robertbateman.ca

One glance at a painting or a drawing by Robert Bateman and one is immediately struck by the phenomenal amount and variety of rich detail; the clarity of his light is superb. The next thought that comes to mind is the extent of time and patience it must surely take to achieve such veracity. And therein lies the magic - and allure - of Bateman's work: there is a photographic accuracy to his depictions of the natural world and its inhabitants. The nap of an animal's fur, its plumage or whiskers; every rocky crevice and crag, pebble or snow track; the texture of a branch, leaf or petal; every watery ripple or reflection - they are all lovingly rendered and made real; such dedication to detail can only be successfully achieved by an artist through a combination of deep love and admiration for his subject along with exceptional observational skills. There is no other way to achieve it - or explain it.

Lone Raven ~ 2002

Leopard In A Sausage Tree ~ 1979

Sheer Drop ~ 1980
The above three images are courtesy of: http://www.wildlifeart.org/

Although he currently resides on Canada's west coast (Salt Spring Island, British Columbia), Toronto-born Robert Bateman, one of Canada's leading wildlife artists, conservationists and naturalists of international renown was born to Joseph Wilber & Annie Maria (McLellan) Bateman on May 24th, 1930. 

In his youth, Bateman was so taken with some of the natural-history exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto that, at the tender age of only twelve, he apprenticed under the curator of the exhibitions, Teryy Shortt, who was good enough to look at the young Bateman's sketches. Of Shortt, Bateman has said, "He put his heart and soul into the passenger pigeon and the African rain-forest dioramas." (Incidentally, Bateman, who is an advocate of education, was dismayed to learn that those same dioramas, whose purpose is to teach and inspire young minds, had been discontinued at the recently-renovated  ROM. Perhaps Bateman's appreciation of the importance of education comes from the twenty years he spent working as a teacher of art and geography at several high-schools - in Canada and, for a brief period of time, in Nigeria -  from 1955-1976.) After graduating from Toronto's Forest Hill Collegiate Institute in 1950, Bateman, firmly resolved to become an artist, enrolled at the Ontario College of Art. Beginning with a representational style, Bateman experimented, as many neophyte artists do, with artistic techniques and genres, including more evolved contemporary styles such as cubism and post-impressionism - as seen in the paintings of the Canadian Group of Seven - in his (re)interpretations of nature. 

Additionally, in 1954, Bateman graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography; a year later, in 1955, he also completed a teaching program at the Ontario College of Education(now known as The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), also at the University of Toronto.
(Sources & quote: Ross, V., The artist as mega-star, The Globe and Mail, picturethisgallery.com, September 15, 2007; robertbateman.ca, undated)

On The Wing
Image courtesy of: http://www.gospel-house.com/

Winter Track - Grey Wolf
Image courtesy of: http://ingyen-hatterkep.hu/

By the early 1960s, however, Bateman rediscovered realism, a technique he honed and which has since become his signature style. In 1967, while still working as a teacher, Bateman mounted what would turn out to be the first of many exhibitions to be held in Canada as well as in the United States and Great Britain throughout his long artistic career. (In 1987, for instance, Bateman's work was featured at an exhibition at the prestigious Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C. that drew record-breaking crowds.)

Bateman's commitment to the preservation of the environment is clearly evident in his work; in fact, his art is closely linked with environmental issues and the importance of wildlife habitat preservation. To that end, since the early 1960s, Bateman has been  affiliated  with many conservationist, naturalist as well as artistic organizations in his capacity as either a board member, chairman or honorary director. With his indefatigable dedication to the environment, Bateman has, since his early days, become a global spokesperson on environmental issues (he is a lifelong lecturer and resource person in art, photography and nature conservation); he uses his art work and limited-edition prints to not only bring awareness to and highlight the many challenges confronting our beleaguered planet but also as a method  by which to raise funds, generating millions of dollars in support of the important causes he believes in. 
(Sources: picturethisgallery.com, 2001; robertbateman.ca, undated)

Early Winter - Mallard Pair ~ 1985
(Wildlife Habitat Canada Stamp)

Giant Panda

Polar Bear Profile ~ 1976

Soames ~ 1984

Winter Companion - Yellow Labrador ~ 1985
The above five images are courtesy of: http://www.robertbateman.ca/

Since the early 1980s, to expand his reach to greater - and often younger - audiences and to bring awareness to important ecological causes and issues, Bateman has authored many best-selling books featuring his work, including several award-winning children's books: Backyard Birds: An Introduction (2005), Birds of Prey: An Introduction (2007), Polar Worlds: Life At The Ends of The Earth (2008), and Vanishing Habitats (2009).

But Bateman's scope has not been limited to the printed page. Since the early1970s, avid audiences have had access to Bateman's life and work in yet another genre: film. Working with such eminent television and cinematic organizations as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Bateman has been featured in several quality films and documentaries, beginning with Robert Bateman (1972, CBC). Since then, other films have included  Images of the Wild: A Portrait of Robert Bateman (1978, NFB), The Nature Art of Robert Bateman (1981, Eco-Art Productions), Life and Times of Robert Bateman (1997, CBC), and Down To Earth (2001, Zephyr Films), his most recent. (Source: robertbateman.ca, undated)

Salt Spring Sheep

River Ford - Tiger

Alaska Light - Grizzly Bears

Dozing Lynx

High Kingdom - Snow Leopard

The above five images are courtesy of: http://www.redsunfineart.com/

Along with international exposure and acclaim, commissions and honours have also flooded in. It was a Bateman painting, commissioned by the Governor General of Canada, that was given to Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer as a wedding gift from the people of Canada in 1981. His works are included in other private royal collections, including those of Prince Philip of England and the late Princess Grace of Monaco. But commissions from other, non-royal patrons have also come in from such diverse organizations as World Wildlife Fund, Endangered Species Bowl (1971), a selection of endangered species postage stamps for Canada Post (1976-1981), the platinum polar bear coin series for the Royal Canadian Mint (1990),  and the National Capital Commission, Canadiana Fund (Official Residences Permanent Collection), "Winter Pond - Mergansers" (2000). Needless to add, Bateman's work is highly sought after and appreciated. (Source: robertbateman.ca, undated)

On The Alert - Chipmunk

Edge of The Ice - Ermine

Distant Danger - Raccoon

Above left: Winter Mist - Great Horned Owl | Above right: Winter Cardinal

Muskoka Lake - Common Loons

Winter Lady - Cardinal

On The Prowl - Red Fox

Curious Glance - Red Fox

Rocky Wilderness - Cougar ~ 1980

Orca Procession
The above eleven images are courtesy of: http://www.durhamart.com/

In recognition for his achievements and contributions - both in the art world as well as for his global advocacy on behalf of wildlife habitat conservation - Bateman was awarded the highest honour given to a citizen of Canada: in 1984 he was made an officer of the Order of Canada. In 1996, Bateman was the recipient of the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement. That same year, the National Audubon Society (United States) named Bateman one of the twentieth century's Champions of Conservation. These are just a few of the many honours which have been bestowed on a well-lived and purposeful life. (Sources: ideacityonline.com, 2010; robertbateman.ca, undated)

Gazelle Kill - Leopard & Thompson Gazelle
Image courtesy of: http://photoshopcontest.com/

Up A Tree Lion Cub

Cheetah Siesta

Old Fort Tiger


Elephant Cow And Calf

By The River

Mountain Goat At Kakwa

Winter Bison

Arctic Family

Bull Moose

Among The Leaves - Cottontail Rabbit

Winter Snowshoe Hare

Above left: Winter Song Chickadee | Above right: Frosty Morning Blue Jay

Woodworkers - Pileated Woodpeckers

Ruby Throat And Columbine

Game Over

Wolf Pack In Moonlight

Snowfall Wolf

Evening Snowfall - American Elk

The Prowler - Raccoon


Observing Christmas
The above twenty-three images are courtesy of: http://www.picturethisgallery.com/

Little Owl On Stone Fence ~ 1994

Tufted Puffin Portrait ~ 1991
The above two images are courtesy of: http://www.animalpicturesarchive.com/

Red Wolf ~ 1986

Silent Witness

Arctic Cliff ~ 1991

Arctic Evening White Wolf

Clear Night Wolves

New Territory

Edge of Night

Rockface Descent

Tiger At Dusk ~ 1998

Female Cardinal ~ 1993

Prothonotary Warbler

Bluebird And Blossoms

Hairy Woodpecker On Birch

On The Move - Red Fox
The above fourteen images are courtesy of: http://www.swoyersart.com/

The Air, Forest and Watch

Snowy Nap

Siberian Tiger

Sudden Moves - Siberian Tiger
The above four images are courtesy of: http://www.hiddenriverart.com/

Video courtesy of:  ~ youtube.com

First Alert

Into The Light

The Warrior Lion

Out Of The White - Snow Leopard

Sleeping Snow Leopard

Grizzly At Rest

Salmon Watch - Spirit Bear

Above The Rapids - Gulls and Grizzly

Big Black

Coyote In Winter Sage

Questing - Red Fox
The above eleven images are courtesy of: http://www.picturethisgallery.com/

I can't conceive of anything being more varied and rich and handsome than the planet Earth. And its crowning beauty is the natural world. I want to soak it up, to understand it as well as I can, and to absorb it. And then I'd like to put it together and express it in my painting. This is the way I want to dedicate my work.

Chief ~ 1997
Image courtesy of: http://www.nytimes.com/

To learn more about Mr. Bateman's exceptional work, please visit his site: Robert Bateman

Recommended readings:

The Art of Robert Bateman (1981), by Robert Bateman, Ramsay Derry & Roger: Madison Press 

Portraits of Nature: Paintings by Robert Bateman (1987), by Stanwyn G. Shetler & The National Museum of  Natural History (United States): Penguin Books Canada Ltd.

Robert Bateman (1990), by Marjorie E. White: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Ltd.

Robert Bateman: An Artist In Nature (1990), by Robert Bateman & Rick Archbold: Madison Press

Natural Worlds (1996), by Robert Bateman & Rick Archbold: Simon & Schuster

Natural Habitat: Contemporary Wildlife Artists of North America (1998), by William H. Gerdts, David J. Wagner, Lisa N. Peters, Carold Lowrey & Ira Spanierman Gallery: Spanierman Gallery 

Safari (1999), by Robert Bateman: Scholastic

Thinking Like A Mountain (2000), by Robert Bateman & Rick Archbold: Penguin
Backyard Birds (2005), by Robert Bateman, Coutts & Ian Kenneth: Scholastic Canada

Birds (2002), by Robert Bateman & Kathryn Dean: Pantheon Books

Birds of Prey: An Introduction (2007), by Robert Bateman & Nancy Kovacs: Scholastic Canada

Robert Bateman (2007), by Carol Koopmans: Weigl Educational Publications Ltd.

Polar Worlds: Life At The Ends of The Earth (2008), by Robert Bateman & Nancy Kovacs: Scholastic Canada

Vanishing Habitats (2009), by Robert Bateman: Scholastic Canada

Bateman: New Works (2010), by Robert Bateman & Peter Matthiessen: Greystone Books
The World of Robert Bateman (1985), by Robert Bateman & Ramsay Derry: Madison Press

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