Fifteen years ago, on its centennial anniversary, The National Audubon Society recognized 100 “Champions of Conservation” in the twentieth century. All are individuals who have worked passionately to raise awareness of our threatened planet. Robert Bateman is one of these giants, along with the likes of Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Ansel Adams.
Bateman is known as one of the most celebrated wildlife artists in the world. He balks at the moniker “wildlife artist,” however, feeling that it’s too restrictive. He is, rather, a painter of nature; of the organic forms and atmospheric conditions that he studies, loves, and wants to protect. “For me, the preservation and celebration of the natural world is a continual concern, and it is the underlying motive for virtually all my art,” he has explained.
Bateman is interested in showing how wildlife and the environment are interwoven, specific, and complex. This esthetic is evident in Up in the Pine – Great Horned Owl. He admitted that it was very difficult to render the dizzying interlacing of branches; to get a better look, he hauled the canvas up a ladder to more fully understand the perspective. The large owl, cryptic on its perch, seems to almost be witnessing the artist straining to understand.
For six decades as an artist, naturalist, and spokesperson, Bateman has made it his mission to reconnect people with the outdoors. Raising awareness to bring about change is his life-long pursuit. He believes that children need to know the basic nature lexicon of the place they live in: “If we are able to identify things, we are more likely to be responsible citizens of the planet.”
Robert Bateman has been awarded 12 honorary doctorates and numerous honors. Along with his tributes from the National Audubon Society, he has been given the Member of Honor Award, World Wildlife Fund, (1985); the Rachel Carson Award (1996); the Golden Plate from the American Academy of Achievement (1998); Queen’s Jubilee Medal, (2002); and Human Rights Defender Award from Amnesty International (2007). He has also been the subject of several films and television programs. In May 2013, The Robert Bateman Centre that houses and exhibits his work was opened in Victoria, British Columbia. His work can be seen here.