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Gold Medal

2013 Winner - Robert Bateman

Robert Bateman (Photo: Birgit Freybe Bateman)

A grizzly, mid-stride, watches as gulls scatter from the edge of a stream, both scavenging species eagerly anticipating the annual salmon run; a hyper-aware pair of whooping cranes pick their way through a northern marsh of tall, dead grasses as migration time nears. Renowned wildlife artist and naturalist Robert Bateman has painted the gamut of Canadian mammals and birds, his subjects totally integrated with their environments. His realism can be startling, and seems to spring from a mind both obsessed with particulars and wildly empathetic. And it inspires empathy and wonder in many who view his art.

The Toronto-born painter, who’s been called Canada’s most popular living artist, has worked from Salt Spring Island, B.C., since 1985. Formerly a university geography major and a high school art and geography teacher, Bateman has long been concerned with humans’ growing disconnect from their place in the natural world.

While his unmistakable artistic style reveals his own reverence for nature, commitment to safeguard it and lead people into it, much of Bateman’s far-reaching philanthropic work also centres on combatting “nature deficit disorder.” For example, the mission of his Victoria-based namesake charity, the Bateman Foundation, is nature-education, which includes the use of nature art as a powerful, inspirational tool. As the painter insists, “If people have no contact with nature, then not only nature but humankind is in for a very gloomy future.”

— Nick Walker

• Read the transcript of Robert Bateman’s keynote speech from the 2013 College of Fellows Annual Dinner.



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