Story Ideas

Strokes of genius

New centre in Victoria celebrates wildlife artist Robert Bateman

19 June 2013

He may be the most popular living artist in Canada, but Robert Bateman’s acclaim knows no borders. He has exhibited his work, featuring wildlife, around the world. Now Bateman has a permanent space to showcase his paintings with the opening of The Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria, BC. More than 160 of his pieces now hang in the 836-square-metre (9,000-square-foot) gallery space that also doubles as a nature education centre.

And the 83-year-old Bateman could not be more pleased: “I’m enjoying this moment. I can sit back and smile. There are only two things I can do – paint and tell stories. The centre brings together both of my passions.”

Not surprisingly, they are tied closely to his love of nature. It has been his inspiration since he did his first painting at age 12. He’s travelled extensively across Canada and found beauty wherever went. These are some of his highlights:

The Belt Line Ravine, Toronto: In the 1890s, the Belt Line Railway linked together the communities spread across the city, from Union Station to areas by the Don River. Bateman’s family lived close by. “I used to climb over our back fence and play alongside the ravine as a boy. I’d build forts and cook potatoes over a campfire. It was beautiful.” The area now called Moore Park Ravine will be the site of the new Robert Bateman nature trail, an 18-km (11-mile) loop. Ontario Trails Council.

Salt Spring Island, BC: Bateman has said that he always wants to live where he is close to nature. His current home here is on 80 acres of protected land where there are ample subjects for his paintings – waterfowl, mink, beaver and bald eagles. From his front door, the former geography teacher has views of a 130-year-old heritage orchard. Salt Spring Tourism.

Eramosa River, Wellington County, ON: “This spot near Guelph is the most beautiful south of the Canadian Shield. There’s an abundance of wildlife – beavers, great horned owls and deer. In the summer, you can swim in the river. In the winter, you can cross-country ski through Rockwood Park. Pure magic.” Visit Guelph Wellington.

The Canadian Prairies: “My parents would take myself and my four siblings on some wild camping trips driving across the Prairies. We’d steer clear of formal campgrounds and find interesting spots instead to stay, like near an old logging road. I learned young that wherever you are, that’s where you should be spiritually, too. There is always something interesting to see if you’re looking.” Tourism Saskatchewan.

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