Basil Ede

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Basil Ede (12 February 1931—29 September 2016) was an English wildlife artist specialising in avian portraiture, noted for the ornithological precision of his paintings.

Early life[edit]

Basil Ede was born 12 February 1931 in Surrey. Ede's interest in drawing began early in life.[1] As a schoolboy growing up during the Second World War, he filled his exercise books with sketches of military aircraft and unflattering caricatures of his school teachers. He was educated at St John's School, Leatherhead. He later attended Kingston School of Art in Surrey.[2] However, in 1949, he was called up for compulsory military service in the British Army, initially with The Royal Artillery training unit and then after a period at Mons Officer Cadet School he became a commissioned officer in the RASC.[3] On leaving the army in 1951, Ede joined the Merchant Navy, taking a job as a purser on board the Orient Line ship Empire Orwell.[4] The ship's established route was between Southampton and Japan, via Suez, Columbo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Pusan.[5] In addition to these duties, the ship was at this time deployed to help transport British troops and equipment to and from the Korean War. Ede was to become fascinated by the Far East and in particular by its art. This was undoubtedly to have an influence on his later work.[6] Coming ashore for good, Ede then joined the Cunard line as a young executive. He would spend his spare time painting birds, including designs that he sold to his employers, Cunard, for their first class menu cards on the RMS Queen Elizabeth and RMS Queen Mary.[7]

Career[edit]

The first one-man exhibition of Basil Ede's work was held at the Rowland Ward Gallery in London in 1958.[8] Further one man exhibitions followed at London's Tryon Gallery in 1960 and 1962.[9]

In 1964, Ede became the first living artist to be honoured with a one-man show at the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington D.C. The event was sponsored by the British Embassy, the English Speaking Union and the National Audubon Society.[10]

In 1965, Ede's first book, "Birds of Town and Village" was published by Country Life Books, featuring thirty six plates of his work in full colour.[11] The publication features a foreword written by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and text by ornithologist W. D. Campbell, republished by Chartwell Books in 2004.[12]

In 1966, 1971 and 1979 one man exhibitions of Ede's work were held at the Kennedy Galleries in New York.[13] In 1971 Ede was commissioned by Walter Annenberg, then serving as United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James, to paint a series of eastern Pennsylvanian birds for his private collection.[14] Also in 1971, a chance encounter with another American collector, Jack Warner, led to the commissioning of "The Wild Birds of America" series.[15] Described as a "very ambitious project",[16] the commission was to paint every species of wild bird in North America, 650 in all, in life size.[17] Robert McCracken Peck, in his essay "Four Centuries of Avian Portraiture", says that the project "...has been compared in scope to John James Audubon's twenty eight year effort to document and celebrate the birds of North America", but adds, "so limited a comparison fails to put into proper perspective the much larger tradition of bird painting in America with which both Audubon and Ede are intimately interlinked."[18] The project was cut short in 1989, after Ede suffered a serious illness.[19] However, a total of ninety five life sized portraits of North American birds, in watercolour, were completed for the collection by Ede, between 1975 and 1989.[20] Today they form part of the Warner Art Collection in the United States. In 1991, the book "Wild birds of America - the Art of Basil Ede" was published by Harry N. Abrams, featuring 103 colour reproductions from the Wild Birds of America series, as well as reproductions from Ede's field notes and sketches.[21] In his foreword, Prince Philip, himself a collector of Ede's work, ranked the English painter among the world's great wildlife artists.[22]

Later career[edit]

Following a severe stroke in 1989,[23] Ede was left with his right arm paralysed and taught himself to paint with his left hand instead.[24] "I lost the use of my right side completely and I couldn't speak." he later told Nigel Reynolds in an interview for the Daily Telegraph in November 1999.[24] He switched his chosen medium from watercolour to oils.[24] Within a year he was once again painting competently and within three he was able to paint in considerable detail.[24] In May 1992, some of Ede's new works in oils were exhibited at the Tryon and Morland Gallery in London as part of their "Twenty years in Cork Street" show.[25] Also in 1992, Ede was honoured with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina.[26] In July 1993, the Wimborne Arts Festival (Dorset, UK) chose to honour Ede with a one-man exhibition of his work in oils.[27]

Basil Ede was one of the founder members of the Society of Wildlife Artists and an honorary trustee of Ducks Unlimited (a wildfowl and wetland conservation organisation) in the United States[28] He was also a life member and supporter of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.[29]

Basil Ede died on 29 September 2016, at the age of eighty five, following a short illness. He is survived by his wife, and two sons.

Books[edit]

  • Birds of Town and Village (Country Life Books 1965, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd 2004 - reprinted 2006, 2007, 2009)
  • Basil Ede's Birds (Severn House Publications & Van Nostrand Reinholt Inc. 1980, Hamlyn Paperbacks edition 1982)
  • Wild Birds of America - The Art of Basil Ede (Abrams, New York, 1991)

Exhibitions[edit]

One Man Shows
  • The Rowland Ward Gallery, London, 1958
  • The Tryon Gallery, London, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1975, 1980
  • The National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington DC, 1964
  • Kennedy Galleries, New York, 1966, 1971, 1979
  • The Gibbs Art Museum, Charleston, South Carolina, 1979
  • The Hibernian Hall, Charleston, South Carolina, 1984
  • The Palm Springs Desert Museum, California, 1987
  • The Wimborne Arts Festival, Dorset, United Kingdom, 1993
Represented in Major Exhibitions at
  • The Pieter Wenning Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1966
  • The Cumner Art Museum, Jacksonville, Florida, 1987
  • The Tryon Gallery, London, 1988
  • The Tryon and Morland Gallery, London, 1992
  • Rountree Tryon Galleries, London, 2017
Permanent Exhibitions
  • The Warner Art Collection, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA
  • The Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland

References[edit]

  1. ^ Introduction Basil Ede's Birds. Hamlyn Paperbacks 1982
  2. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede. Abrams 1991
  3. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede. Abrams 1991
  4. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede. Abrams 1991
  5. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede. Abrams 1991.
  6. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede. Abrams 1991
  7. ^ Interview with Judith A. Troops, Birders World, August 1989.
  8. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede. Abrams 1991
  9. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede. Abrams 1991
  10. ^ Introduction. Basil Ede's Birds. Hamlyn Paperbacks 1982
  11. ^ "Birds of Town and Village" Country Life Books 1965
  12. ^ "Birds of Town and Village" Chartwell Books 2004
  13. ^ Preface and flyleaf, "Basil Ede's Birds", Severn House Publications 1980
  14. ^ Field Notes and Recollections, "Wild Birds of America, The Art Of Basil Ede" Abrams 1991
  15. ^ Flyleaf, "Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede" Abrams 1991
  16. ^ Foreword by HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, "Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede" Abrams 1991
  17. ^ "Four Centuries of Avian Portraiture" Robert McCracken Peck, Fellow, Academy of Natural Sciences, Abrams, 1991
  18. ^ "Four Centuries of Avian Portraiture" Robert McCracken Peck, Fellow, Academy of Natural Sciences, Abrams 1991
  19. ^ "Four Centuries of Avian Portraiture" Robert McCracken Peck, Fellow, Academy of Natural Sciences, Abrams 1991
  20. ^ "Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede" Abrams 1991
  21. ^ "Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede" Abrams 1991
  22. ^ Foreword by HRH The prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,"Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede" Abrams 1991
  23. ^ Field Notes and Recollections. Wild Birds of America, The Art of Basil Ede Abrams 1991
  24. ^ a b c d Article by Nigel Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph Saturday 20 November 1999
  25. ^ Country Life magazine 14 May 1992
  26. ^ "Wildlife Art News", Yearbook of International Wildlife Artists, 1993
  27. ^ Wimbourne Arts Festival programme 1993
  28. ^ "Wildscape, The Journal of Wildlife Art and Conservation" volume 2 number 2
  29. ^ Introduction, "Basil Ede's Birds" Hamlyn Paperbacks 1982

External links[edit]