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Today's Hours
Museum: 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Ede, Basil
(1931)
Specialty: Paintings
View Artwork
Some measure of an artist must be the determination he brings to his
career as well as the talent. Basil Ede is the living embodiment of that
axiom. He has spent years doing the research and perfecting the techniques
that have made him a fine artist, but it is a quality of commitment beyond
even that which has made him one of the world's foremost ornithological
artists. Carl W. Buchheister, President Emeritus of the National Audubon
Society, wrote in the preface to Basil Ede's Birds:

Technical ability is, to be sure, essential for the artist, but to
impart lifelike qualities and personality to one's subjects requires the
abilities of the true master . . . this can be acquired only from long
hours in the field, in an intimate study of the living bird . . . Every
Ede painting gives eloquent manifestation of such knowledge and
understanding.


Ede had enormous successes behind him and career laurels on which he could
have comfortably rested when, in the late 1980s, he suffered a stroke that
left him unable to use the right hand with which he had painted a
multitude of birds. He had just been commissioned by Jack W. Warner, CEO
of Gulf Paper States Paper Corporation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to render
life-sized versions of all the birds of North America for a series of
limited edition prints. He had already completed the first few dozen. But
rather than putting away his brushes, Mr. Ede simply taught himself to
paint equally well using his left hand. The final result was completed in
1989 and later published as Wild Birds of America in 1991.

Born in Surrey, England in 1931, Ede received informal instruction in
wildlife drawing as a child from a local artist and drew cartoons and
caricatures throughout his teenage years. In his early twenties, he
decided to merge his love for bird-watching with his artistic talent and
began doing the work that would lead to his stellar career. At the age of
25, he went to work for the Orient Steam Navigation which allowed him to
travel and observe many different styles of art across the world. As
"Orient" would suggest, he spent a majority of time in the Far East where
he was inspired by Japanese, Chinese, and southeastern Asian forms of art
whose influence is evident in his early work. After his return to England,
however, he encountered the work of British artist Archibald Thornton from
whom he adopted his watercolor and gouache technique.

After a 1958 exhibition at the Tryon Gallery in London, the first
specialist wildlife gallery there, Ede visited America in 1962 and had his
first American show at the Smithsonian's National Collection of Fine Arts
in 1964. Over the years he has attracted the attention of such noteworthy
collectors as Prince Philip of England and Walter Annenberg, the former
U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. In February of 1977, the R.W. Norton Art
Gallery commissioned Ede to paint Brown Pelican because of its
significance as the state bird of Louisiana. Aware that it was an
endangered species, Ede carefully observed the bird in the wild, composing
numerous sketches of the pelican in various positions, and took copious
notes on the bird at the Museum of Natural History in Washington. In June
of 1977, he wrote, "I was very much taken by the nobility of the bird in
its natural habitat and have tried to convey in the picture my feelings
about him." The resulting painting is a life-size depiction, showing the
details of the bird's feather growth, while also featuring a low horizon
that conveys the landscape of the Deep South.

Over the years, Ede's paintings have been collected in several books. In
1965, 36 color plates of his paintings appeared in Birds of Town and
Village
, which has since been reprinted several times. In 1980,
Kennedy Galleries in New York published Basil Ede's Birds, a
catalogue of 30 paintings that accompanied his 1979 exhibition there. His
artwork has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions, and in 1992, he
earned the first Lifetime Achievement Award ever presented by the
Southeastern Wildlife Exposition.

Museum Staff