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, 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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Life

Yielding To The Camera

Excuse me! You with the paintbrush! Camera coming through!

I was posting our wedding pics when I saw one we’d taken of our photographer Keith and his assistant. Being in 1988 there would have been a few other cameras there like the one that took a pic of him holding his large-format Hasselblad-like beauty and his first cold beer on that blistering hot day.

Wedding Helle Hella Ken Photographers

Nowadays you can almost guarantee every guest has a camera and a video camera in their pocket! Quite a challenge for the guy being paid:“Um, please stand aside, I’m trying to get a picture of the bride”. So are we! comes the answer from all the other guests.

Coincidentally wikipedia featured the top pic today, so I got to thinking of the poor portrait painters of yore. Used to being the main man around and very important, here he was probably asked “Won’t you paint a backdrop for me old chap? Any old thing will do. I’m taking portrait daguerrotypes, what!” But, but . . 

“That’s all, we won’t be needing you after that.”

I bet the early photographers made people stand way longer than actually needed so they wouldn’t feel short-changed after being used to sit for days for their portrait.

I think paintings often outshine daguerrotypes:

Collage Portraits.jpg

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Feature pic Interior with Portraits by Thomas Le Clear 1865, features siblings posing for a photograph in an artist’s studio. The painting has been read as representing the tension between its medium and the emergent medium of photography.

 Hold still, would you!

Portrait Camera

Aitch, Life

Me, Art Connoisseur – Not

Subject: I’m rich

Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2016

I’m rich. I have an early Willie Bester, complete with crushed Mainstay Cane spirits bottle top and torn-off piece of an Omo packet, framed in cheap SA pine.

20160313_102248

Read this from Smithsonian Libraries and weep:

Contemporary African art from the Jean Pigozzi collection / foreword by Mark Gibourne; [day of sale, June 24, 1999]. London: Sotheby’s, 1999. 132pp., 57 lots. illus. (color).

The 1999 Sotheby’s auction of works from the Jean Pigozzi collection was the first major sale of modern African art by a top auction house.

Remarkably, all the works sold. Most fetched more than the estimated prices. Realized prices ranged from £2,000 to £7,000. The top price was a Willie Bester mixed media work going for £10,000 (pre-sale estimate, £4,000-£6,000). Not bad. The sale was billed as a benefit for Unicef and to establish the Jean Pigozzi Prize for Contemporary African Art.

Confession: When Aitch bought it in Kaapstad one early holiday while we were rich and child-free, I raised my eyebrows and thought Hmmm . . .

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Sent: Thursday, 17 November 2016
Subject: Willie Bester art

Aitch’s Willie Bester artwork is looking even better – again. One was sold at an auction of David Bowie’s African art collection. Admittedly there’s a “David Bowie factor” which one art dealer reckoned added 50% to the prices.

image001

Bester’s “What Happened in the Western Cape?” fetched R358,000.

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She’d have done this if she was here, so here goes:

“Remember how you said ‘Are you mad?’ when I bought it in Cape Town, Koos?!”

**mumble** Well, I didn’t say ‘mad’. I’m sure I said “Are you sure?” **mumble**

It was January 1993 and Aitch paid R2660 on budget over six months on her credit card. She pinned the slip to the back of the painting. What an investment! Note how they still used the old shook-shook credit card machine back then.

20161118_180025

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More about Willie:

Born in Montagu, Western Cape in 1956. He began painting murals as a child, and it was also then that he first developed an interest in recycling industrial and waste materials. As an adult, Bester worked for 15 years as a dental technician’s assistant before rekindling his love for art. His first solo exhibition, held in Cavendish Square in 1982, was mounted without the assistance of a gallerist. Bester went on to study part-time at the Community Art Centre in Cape Town where he was exposed to the idea of art as a political tool.

Following this encounter he had a meteoric rise to fame in the early 1990s, exhibiting at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg before taking part in exhibitions in Dakar, Senegal, and in numerous centres in Europe, including Africa Remix, which was mounted at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2005 before travelling to the Pompidou Centre in Paris and thereafter to Johannesburg.

Bester has received numerous prestigious awards including South Africa’s Order of Ikhamangu (Silver). Most recently, Bester exhibited at the Changchun Sculpture Symposium in China where he was voted the most popular artist and honoured for his innovative use of materials.

Bester’s mixed media works have frequently included passages of painting that have contained strongly naturalistic elements. Continuity is also evident in Bester’s sustained preoccupation with apartheid’s legacy, and the empathy and dignity with which he represents the dispossessed.

Curriculum Vitae

Training – 1986: Community Arts Project, Cape Town.

Exhibitions

1982–2003: Eleven solo Exhibitions in South Africa.

1988–2001: Five solo exhibitions abroad – Dakar, Senegal; Trento, Rome and Turin, Italy; and Brussels, Belgium. 1989–2004: Participation in approximately thirty group exhibitions in South Africa.

1991–2005: Participation in approximately forty-six international Exhibitions in thirty-five cities and towns in the UK, Italy, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, USA, Cuba, Germany, Canary Islands, Spain, Austria, Senegal, Brazil, India, Malaysia, and Ireland. This includes several biennales and high profile exhibitions.

Collections

Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth; Durban Art Gallery; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg; Pretoria Art Museum; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; University of the Western Cape, Bellville; University of South Africa Art Gallery, Pretoria; Department of National Education, Pretoria; Department of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria; South African Broadcasting Corporation, Cape Town and Johannesburg; Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town; Contemporary African Art Collection, Paris; Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC.

Awards

1991: Merit Prize, Cape Triennial.

1992: Prix De L’Aigle, 4th Grand Prix International D’Arts Plastiques de la Vlille de Nice, France.

2003: Honorary medal for promotion of Fine Arts: Suid Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

2004: Order of the Disa, Members Class, Government of the Republic of South Africa.

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