Robert Bateman

Robert Bateman - Artists for Conservation 2008 Winner of Simon Combes Conservati


Robert Bateman is recognized the world over for his exceptional masterpieces and for his unwavering dedication to the conservation cause.  An avid orator, he shares his love of our natural heritage with anyone who will listen and impresses upon his audiences his fervent love for all things living. His paintings reflect his caring nature and devotion to creatures big and small.  As a member and director of numerous conservation organizations, Bateman endorses and supports their continued efforts in promoting, through their respective disciplines, the conservation of our natural world. 

“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, understand it as well as I can, and to absorb it.... and then I would like to put it together and express it in my painting. This is the way I want to dedicate my life.”

Since his early childhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he was born, Bateman has enjoyed a special bond with the earth and the creatures that roam it.  While he derives endless pleasure capturing flora and fauna on canvass, it is not without a struggle.  

“Painting, for me, has never been a hobby. It is not relaxing - writers and athletes would say the same. Since I was twelve, I have always painted unless I am interrupted. It is a labor, but it is what I do . . . a labor of love let us say.

“My life, so far, has been immersed in nature and of course it always will be.  It has been inspiring, adventurous and fun.  I have been thrilled by the gorillas in the rainforests of the Congo, the whales of the Pacific, the penguins of the Antarctic and the lions of the Serengeti.  But none of these spectacular experiences has been any more enchanting than the nature I discovered as a young boy in the ravine below our backyard in Toronto.”

Bateman has been instrumental in raising millions of dollars through the sale of his artwork for conservation organizations. 

Museums, galleries, royalty, and other avid collectors the world over treasure his artwork and admire his dedication to preserving and protecting nature’s glory. 

Bateman’s special commissions have included a wedding gift for HRH The Prince Charles, a Platinum Polar Bear Coin Series for the Royal Canadian Mint, and an Endangered Species Postage Stamp Series from 1976-1981 for Canada Post.  His temporary and traveling exhibitions draw sell-out crowds both in Canada and abroad. 

His major academic honors include Doctorates in Fine Arts, Laws, and Science.  Canada’s highest civilian award, Officer of the Order of Canada, was bestowed upon him in 1984.  The Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 1977 and 2002 are also to his credit.  In 1987 Bateman received the Governor General’s Award for Conservation.  The Society of Animal Artists presented him with the Award of Excellence in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1986, and 1990.  In 1998 the American Academy of Achievement honored him with the Golden Plate Award. 

 His published works detail his professional life, artistic techniques, and endless passion for conservation.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the National Film Board of Canada, and Eco-Art Production have produced documentaries featuring his life and his art.   He holds honorary memberships in many conservation organizations. 

This year, the Artists for Conservation Foundation acknowledged Bateman with its highest recognition--the Simon Combes Award.

“I am honored to have been chosen as the recipient of the Simon Combes Conservation Award.  The Artists for Conservation Foundation, through its varied programs and initiatives, is a leader in furthering the objectives of the artists who make up the Group.  You have to be passionate and committed to make a difference in the world of conservation. This award, which not only underlies everything that I believe in, but also keeps the memory of a dedicated individual alive, is yet another example of AFC’s contribution to preserving our natural heritage,” said Bateman, after being notified of the award.  

Before becoming an artist full-time Bateman was a high school educator for 20 years.  (Three schools in Canada now proudly bear his name). Bateman strongly endorses environmental education in the school system. 

“The overwhelming reason to increase nature study and outdoor education in the schools is nothing short of the salvation of the planet. Almost all scientists and other thinking people say that we are headed in a very destructive direction with the desecration of our atmosphere and life on land and in our waters. These things are nature.  E. O. Wilson has said, ‘Biodiversity is the creation.’  The destruction of biodiversity is a sin against creation and is, in his words, ‘the death of birth’. How can we expect to preserve and protect biodiversity if we don’t even know the names of the plants and animals that share our neighborhood? And, what is worse, if we don’t care?

“Nature always offers adventure since it is always dynamic and full of surprises.  Although it is not usually considered an ‘extreme’ sport, it is not without risks and physical challenges. This, of course, is exactly what is considered ‘fun’, especially for young people. How much better is it to push yourself in the real world than in the virtual world of a video game? One can even add to the sport and competition by keeping lists, for example, the number of different species of birds seen in one year. Recent studies at the University of Illinois indicate that being out in nature (not inorganic playgrounds) decreases ADHD, reduces stress, increases civil behavior by 80% and increases productivity in schoolwork.  ‘Green’ schools have far fewer colds and incidences of flu.

“Love is a part of the picture, maybe the most important part. E. O. Wilson has a name for it ... biophilia ... the love of living things.   In contrast to increasing destructive trends towards self-indulgence, this love is generous and gratitude based - gratitude for what nature offers us. You cannot love a human being without knowing that person and you cannot love nature without knowing about it.”

For the last few years, Robert has been focused on the creation of a very special new facility near his home in British Columbia. Shortly, Royal Roads University, near Victoria, Canada will become the home of the Robert Bateman Art and Environmental Education Centre - a unique facility designed to host art exhibits, and environmental educational programs, including lectures by special guests and by Bateman himself. The centre will also become the home for Robert’s personal legacy of sketchbooks and paintings.

Several years ago, Bateman launched a unique initiative called “Get To Know”, to support youth nature education and outdoor activity programs for school children across Canada. More recently he completed four paintings each for Alberta Parks, British Columbia Parks, and Ontario Parks to raise money to offer programs in nature for kids. 

Robert Bateman lives on Saltspring Island in British Columbia, Canada, with his wife, Birgit.  He is the proud father of Alan, Sarah, John, Christopher, and Robbie.


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