Last Saturday (September 14), renowned Canadian wildlife artist and naturalist Robert Bateman received The Algonquin Park Legacy Award at a special event at the Algonquin Art Centre in Algonquin Park.
Bateman was presented the award by his long-time friend, the acclaimed wildlife artist and naturalist Michael Dumas — who was the recipient of the inaugural award last year.
Established by the Algonquin Art Centre, the Algonquin Park Legacy Award recognizes artistic excellence, outstanding contributions to art in Algonquin Park, and life-long dedication to nature and wildlife.
Besides honouring Bateman, the September 14th event was a fundraiser for the 75th anniversary of the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station, which was created in 1944 to provide facilities and logistical support for academic and government researches from Ontario and around the world.
Bateman first visited Algonquin Park in 1939 when he was nine years old during a family summer vacation, and began working at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station at the age of 17. While he was there, working as a manual labourer and assisting researchers with their field work, he developed his skills as an artist — with the park’s natural landscapes and wildlife his subjects.
Bateman’s experiences at Algonquin Park were instrumental in forming his lifelong passion for both art and nature.
During his career, Bateman has received numerous honours and awards, including Officer of the Order of Canada in 1994 and 14 honorary doctorates. He has also been the subject of several films and books, and was named one of the top 100 environmental proponents of the 20th century by the Audubon Society of Canada in 1999.
In 2012, he established The Bateman Foundation, a national non-profit organization that uses artwork to promote a connection to nature and the environment. Until 2016, Bateman and his Birgit owned a cottage in Haliburton.
As the September 14th event, Bateman was the keynote speaker and shared with the audience his connections to Algonquin Park and the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station.
As well as giving the award to Bateman, Dumas also presented a limited edition, numbered, and signed copy of The Artists of Kawartha, the fourth book in a series designed and published by Algonquin-area publisher Andrea Hillo. Dumas, who wrote the foreword in the book and contributed several of his art images, personalized the book with a hand-drawn sketch.
Before presenting the award, Dumas read a quote by Bateman from the first book in the series, The Artists of Algonquin, for which Bateman wrote the foreword.
“In 1947 at the age of 17, I landed a dream job at the Wildlife Research Camp, north of Lake of Two Rivers. I was a student ‘chore boy’ but I observed nature and drew and painted my surroundings for four glorious summers. The land is in my blood.”
The other two books in the series are The Artists of Muskoka and The Artists of Haliburton Highlands, and both Bateman and Dumas played large roles in the success of the locally produced series, according to Hillo.
For more information about Hillo’s book series, visit www.theartistsbooks.com.
“Robert Bateman and Michael Dumas have both shown incredible sensitivity, dedication and endless efforts in conservation and research of wildlife and the natural world,” Hillo says. “Their time spent immersed in, and observing nature is clearly documented with their awesome artistic talent, recognized world wide.”
Until Sunday, October 20th, the Algonquin Art Centre is hosting “A Tribute to Robert Bateman”, a special exhibit that looks at his deep connections to Algonquin and its role in his development as an artist and environmentalist.
The Algonquin Art Centre, located on the shores of Found Lake in Algonquin Park, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is voluntary, but a valid Ontario Parks permit is required to visit the centre.