Born in Toronto, Robert Bateman has been a keen artist and naturalist from his early days. He has always painted wildlife and nature, beginning with a representational style, moving through impressionism and cubism to abstract expressionism. In his early thirties he moved back to realism as a more suitable way to express the particularity of the planet. It is this style that has made him one of the foremost artists depicting the world of nature.
In the ’70s and early ’80s, Bateman’s work began to receive critical acclaim and to attract an enormous following. His work is in many public and private collections and several art museums. He was commissioned by the Governor-General of Canada to create a painting as the wedding gift for HRH The Prince Charles from the people of Canada. His work is also represented in the collection of HRH The Prince Philip, the late Princess Grace of Monaco and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. Bateman has had many one-man museum shows throughout North America, including an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; most of these shows have drawn record-breaking crowds. His honors, awards and honorary doctorates are numerous; he was made Officer of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award. He was awarded the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement. He has also been the subject of three films and several video productions. 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. A fourth book of his art, Robert Bateman: Natural Worlds, focuses on the importance of natural and cultural heritage. Safari, an illustrated book for young readers, contains firsthand accounts and interesting facts about African wildlife. The book, Thinking Like a Mountain, details Bateman’s environmental philosophies and observations and includes pencil sketches throughout.
It is in honor of his contribution to art and conservation that both a public school and a secondary school in Canada have been named after him. 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 wife, Birgit, to many remote natural areas.
Bateman’s art reflects his commitment to ecology and preservation. Since the early ’60s, he has been an active member of naturalist clubs and other conservation organizations. This involvement has increased in recent years and is 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 which 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 work.”