Nova Scotia Nature Trust | Nova Scotians Protecting Nova Scotia

Annual Dinner & Silent Auction 2001

The Nature Trust was pleased to have the keynote address at the 4th Annual Silent Auction and Dinner delivered by one of Canada's foremost artists, naturalists, and conservationists, Robert Bateman.

Robert Bateman. For as long as he can remember, Robert Bateman has been passionate about nature, and this is supremely evident in his art and life. His fascination with nature dates from his boyhood in Toronto, where he began his lifelong education as a naturalist by studying and sketching the species he saw in the ravine behind his house. His work began with a representational style, moving through impressionism and cubism to abstract expressionism. But in his early 30's he moved back to realism as a more suitable way to express what is already a work of art; the natural world. In his own words, "I moved into my present style because of my reverence for the particularity of every square inch of the biosphere. I couldn't show biological specificity in general globs of paint." It is this style that has attracted an enormous following and has made him one of the most celebrated artists depicting the world of nature.

Born in Toronto, with a degree in geography from the University of Toronto, Bateman taught high school for 20 years, including two years in Nigeria. He traveled around the world in a Land Rover in 1957/58, increasing his appreciation of cultural and natural heritage. Since leaving teaching in 1976 to paint full-time, he has traveled widely with his artist/conservationist wife Birgit to many remote natural areas.

His painting grace museums and private collections the world over, including the collections of HRH Prince Philip, the late Princess Grace of Monaco and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. His honours, awards and honorary doctorates are numerous; he was made Officer of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian award. He was recently awarded the Golden Plate from the American Academy of Achievement and has been named one of the 20th Century's Champions of Conservation by the U.S. National Audubon Society. Three books of his art "The Art of Robert Bateman", "The World of Robert Bateman" and "Robert Bateman: An Artist in Nature" have made publishing history having sold more than three quarters of a million copies. He has been the subject of several films. He even has a school named after him.

As if his artistic endeavours haven't kept him busy enough, Bateman has come into an increasingly vocal role as an environmentalist. Hot off the presses is his debut in natural philosophy, the Leopoldesque Thinking Like a Mountain . His is an environmentalism that seeks to address both the challenges facing the natural world, and the challenges facing its human inhabitants. He is as much a student of the human condition as of nature. Bateman writes,

"Aldo Leopold coined the phrase "thinking like a mountain" more than fifty years ago, and it resonates more loudly with each passing year as the need to make choices about what is best for our children and grandchildren grows more and more pressing. When will we change our way of thinking so that we make our plans and take our decisions from the point of view of the planet, instead of the point of view of instant gratification?

I don't pretend to have the answers. But I do believe the solutions to our problems are all around us, if only we observe closely and listen carefully. These solutions won't come easily, or cheaply, or without some pain, but upon their successful application depends the survival of all species, including our own."

Bateman's art reflects his commitment to ecology and preservation. Since the early 1960's, he has been an active member of naturalist and conservation organizations, now on a global scale. He has become a spokesman for many environmental and preservation issues and has used his artwork and limited edition prints in fund-raising efforts that have provided millions of dollars for these worthy causes. He says, "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 life."

The Auction and Dinner was held on October 20th, 2001 at Halifax's Lord Nelson Hotel. It was a sold-out event raising $30,000 for the conservation work of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.


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