Africa, Birds & Birding, Books, Canoe & Kayak, Life, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Explorers 12. Baines

(John) Thomas Baines (1820–1875) – was an English artist and explorer of British colonial southern Africa and Australia. He was most famous for his beautiful paintings – especially of ‘Baines Baobabs’ and the mighty Falls, Mosi oa Tunya.

Apprenticed to a coach painter at an early age, he left England aged 22 for South Africa aboard the ‘Olivia,’ captained by a family friend. He worked for a while in Cape Town as a scenic and portrait artist, then as an official war artist for the British Army during the so-called Eighth Frontier War against the Xhosas.

In 1858 Baines accompanied the maniac David Livingstone on a disastrous trip along the Zambezi River, from which he was dismissed by the irrational Livingstone after a disagreement with Livingstone’s brother.

From 1861 to 1862 Baines and ivory trader James Chapman undertook an epic expedition to South West Africa. Starting in ‘Walvisch Bay,’ they crossed the Namib Desert, then the Kalahari to Lake Ngami, over the Boteti and Tamalakhane rivers, and then on eastwards to the Zambezi river, on which they were paddled downstream by local boatman to where they could view the falls. If you tried that with even the best 4X4 today without using any roads you would have an epic journey and it would be an amazing achievement. As always – and as still – they were guided by locals:

– pommy tourists being ferried downstream towards the falls by Makololo boatmen –
– the falls from the west –
– the falls from the east –

This was the first expedition during which extensive use was made of both photography and painting, and in addition both men kept journals in which, amongst other things, they commented on their own and each other’s practice. This makes their accounts, Chapman’s Travels in the Interior of South Africa (1868) and Baines’ Explorations in South-West Africa. Being an account of a journey in the years 1861 and 1862 from Walvisch bay, on the western coast, to lake Ngami and the Victoria falls (1864), especially interesting. They provide a rare account of different perspectives on the same trip.

On the way they camped under the now famous ‘Baines Baobabs’ on Nxai Pan in Botswana:

– beaut pic from thelawofadventures.com –

Baines gives a delightful description of the tribulations of the artist at his easel in Africa: ‘Another hindrance is the annoyance caused to the painter by the incessant persecutions of the tsetse (fly). At the moment perhaps when one requires the utmost steadiness and delicacy of hand, a dozen of these little pests take advantage of his stillness, and simultaneously plunge their predatory lancets into the neck, wrists and the tenderest parts of the body.’

– elephant at the falls –

In 1869 Baines led one of the first gold prospecting expeditions to Mashonaland between the Gweru and Hunyani rivers. He was given permission by King Lobengula, leader of the Matabele nation in what became Rhodesia, then Zimbabwe. He later traveled in Natal and witnessed the coronation of Cetshwayo.

– crossing a drift in Natal –
– lots of chasing – black rhino –
– lots of killing – white rhino
– lots of killing –

Thomas Baines never achieved financial security. He died in poverty in Durban in 1875 of dysentery, at the age of 55 while writing up his latest expeditions. He is buried in West Street Cemetery. A generous eulogy was read in London at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society by its President, Sir Henry Rawlinson.

– Zambezi river at Tete village –
– lion family –

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Jane Carruthers; Jane Carruthers again; His art 1. 2. 3. ; britannica.com brief biography; wikipedia;

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Baines wrote another book in 1871: Shifts and Expedients of Camp Life, Travel & Exploration by Baines and Lord. My kind of book! I’ll blog about it separately, as I’m pleased to see he acknowledges a prior book which I could not resist buying: Galton’s book – 1st edition 1855

Africa, Travel Africa, Wildlife, Game Reserves

Explorers 4. Gordon

These guys saw Southern Africa before the Anthropocene – lucky fishes! I love reading about their fresh look on the amazing African fauna and flora as their local guides showed them around.

Robert Jacob Gordon (1743 – 1795) – was a Dutch explorer, soldier, artist, naturalist and linguist of Scottish descent.

Starting in 1773 he went on more expeditions than any other 18th century explorer of southern Africa. His first was with Thunberg and Masson. They undertook a trip on foot exploring the mountains between Cape Town and False Bay.

Johannes Schoemaker, an artist, accompanied Gordon on all his journeys, producing a fine record of their travels. Gordon was a diligent recorder of data such as altitude, compass headings and hours traveled and other information which he would later incorporate in a great map he planned.

For most of his journeys he followed well-travelled routes, sometimes joined by others going the same way. His equipment was carried by a single wagon, while he rode on horseback, ranging across the veld, observing, recording and occasionally hunting.

One trip was to Swellendam; from there via Plattekloof to Beervlei and on to present-day Aberdeen, across the Sneeuwberg to a point slightly west of Colesberg. He then roughly retraced his outbound route as far as the Sneeuwberg, then headed south-east to Cookhouse.

He reached the confluence of the Grootte Rivier (Orange / Gariep) and the Caledon, about 1000km east of Cape Town.

– R J Gordon paintings collage –

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Gordon’s home Schoonder Sigt (‘beautiful view’) was one of the ten most conspicuous large manors of Cape Town. In 1800 it was purchased by George Rex, an Englishman believed to be the son of King George III and his first wife Hannah Lightfoot whom he secretly married before he ascended to the throne and wed Queen Charlotte. I think he was actually George Rex, son of John Rex, farmhand from Paddock Wood, but hey! new country, new identity! What happens in the Colony stays in the Colony, OK!?

Over the years the Schoonder Sigt residence saw many transformations from the original manor house. It was changed to an apartment block called Sunny Lodge; then it became The Gardens Nursing Home, a seven-ward psychiatric hospital specializing in rehabilitating ‘people living in the fast lane’ and ‘housewives on the busy cocktail circuit’! In 1973 it was changed to resemble a Spanish villa complete with scalloped plasterwork and cactus, and was renamed Flower Street Villa! Luckily that was undone when in 2009 it was completely renovated and restored to something like its former glory as The Three Boutique Hotel, corner of Schoonder and Flower streets.

On 25 October 1795 Gordon committed suicide in Schoonder Sigt soon after the blerrie British annexed the colony in the chaos and uncertainty following the French invasion of the Netherlands. As commander of the Dutch garrison he had probably seen the futility of fighting against the superior British forces that invaded the Cape. So even though it had been governor Sluysken that actually surrendered, the decision was held against Gordon by some of his countrymen.

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wikipedia; rijksmuseum.nl; robertjacobgordon.nl;

Africa, Family & Kids, Free State, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Victor Simmonds, Artist

Dad: “Victor Simmonds was a lovely chap and a very good artist. He was a little man, grey, a lot older than me. What? How old? Well, I was probably 35 then and he was grey. He was probably 50. He lodged with Ruth Wright on the plot next door to ours, Glen Khyber. I doubt if he paid them any rent, they were probably just helping him out. He moved to the hotel in Royal Natal National Park where they allowed him to sell his art to the guests and that probably paid his rent.

“He was a hopeless alcoholic, unfortunately. He used to come to me begging for a bottle of brandy late at night, his clothes torn from coming straight across to Birdhaven from Glen Khyber, through the barbed wire fences. I said ‘Fuck off, Victor, I won’t do that to you,’ and sent him away. I wish I had bought one of his paintings. Sheila found these paintings he gave me for nothing. He said he did these as a young student. As I took them he said ‘Wait, let me sign them for you.'”

– maybe a self portrait? –
– nude with amphora? –
– semi-nude with two amphorae? –
– maybe the Kak Spruit at Glen Khyber? – possibly –

So I went looking and found a lot of his work available on the internet. Once again Dad’s memory proved sound. Victor was born in 1909, thus thirteen years older than Dad:

Victor Simmonds’ work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $126 to $256, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. Since 2012 the record price for this artist at auction is $256 for South African landscape with two women carrying wood, sold at Bonhams Oxford in 2012.

– South African Landscape With Two Women Carrying Wood –
Shrubs beside a cascading stream

I just knew this scene! To me this looks like the stream above the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal National Park – So I went looking and at lovecamping.co.za I found:

– spot on! – an image locked in my brain for maybe thirty years! –
– sunset, poplar trees, a river – the Wilge? –

A number of his paintings are available for sale. I’d love to see his ‘The Gorge, Royal Natal National Park, Showing the Inner Buttress and Devils Tooth’ but I’d have to subscribe for one day at 30 euros! That one was apparently painted in 1980, so he kept going for at least 23 years after he stayed in our neck of the woods. That would have made Victor around 70 and his liver a resilient organ.

Africa, Aitch, Birds & Birding, Books

Aitch Art Connoisseur – Again

I wrote about Aitch’s eye for and taste in art here when she spotted a Willie Bester in Cape Town in 1993 and bought it over my “are you sure?” ignorance.

Around about the same time we met Ingrid Weiersbye on Barry & Lyn Porter’s game farm at Hella Hella and Aitch loved her work and quietly bought two of her paintings, later presenting them to me for my birthday. Ingrid is married to Barry’s brother Roger, ecologist with KZN Wildlife.

Well, sure as anything, Ingrid just got more and more famous and I’m sure whatever Aitch paid, the paintings are worth way more now. This one is on offer for over R20 000:

ingrid_weiersbye_art

And I think ours are better!

Ingrid Weisersbye (2)
Old ‘Natal Robin’ – Ingrid Weiersbye

Ingrid Weisersbye (3)
African Wood Owl – Ingrid Weiersbye

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More about Ingrid Weiersbye:

Born in England, raised in Zimbabwe, Weiersbye has held eight solo exhibitions. Beside these she has printed five limited edition print releases, has participated in numerous art and environmental projects and her work has been published in several books. She has been well supported by corporate and private collectors, particularly in the UK, Germany and South Africa.

Furthermore:
• She has exhibited work for seven consecutive years at the Society of Wildlife Artists’ annual exhibition in London.
• She has exhibited at the British Birdwatching Show for three years at which she won the ‘best stand’ award in 1995 in the art category for her bird paintings.
• She was invited by the Tron and Swann Gallery in London to participate in several major art exhibition from 1992 to 1996 including ‘Parrots of the World’, ‘Wildfowl and Waterfowl’ as well as the British Game Fair.

Additionally she exhibits on most major South African wildlife exhibitions of international wildlife art held regularly at the Everard Reade Gallery in Johannesburg.

PUBLICATIONS

Robert’s 7th edition. Handbook of Birds of Southern Africa. 2005…main contributing artist

Roberts 7

Roberts Bird Guide – Kruger National Park. 2006…main contributing artist

Roberts Bird Field-guide. 2007

Roberts Geographic Variation of Southern African Birds. 2012…co-author and sole illustrator

Roberts Variation Weiersbye

Birds of Botswana Field-guide, Princeton University Press. 2016…co-author and sole illustrator

Birds Botswana Pete Hancock Ingrid Weiersbye

Roberts Comprehensive Field-guide to Southern African Birds. 2016…co-author and main illustrator

Roberts 7 Ingrid Weiersbye

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