Five Little Known Facts About Robert Bateman

With the upcoming 92nd birthday of the famed Canadian naturalist, educator, and artist Robert Bateman, we at The Bateman Foundation are proud to be recalling and celebrating his numerous achievements.

What hasn’t Robert Bateman achieved?

He’s an officer of the Order of Canada, a holder of 14 honorary doctorates, declared as one of the top 100 environmental proponents of the 20th century by the Audubon Society of Canada. As a revered educator, there are three schools bearing his name.

Did you know that his works have contributed millions of dollars raised for environmental causes?

It seems like the world has watched Robert Bateman do it all. Yet, despite his fame and success, there is still so much to learn about the life of Robert Bateman.

We’d like to share five things you didn’t know about the great Robert Bateman.

  1. Robert became interested in art as a child but never felt it would be a ‘living.’ Inspired by the Group of Seven, he started sketching the birds around his home on Chaplin Cres in the fringes of Forest Hill, a Toronto neighbourhood.
  2. A major influence was artist Franz Kline and through him took an abstract approach to his works on nature. In his mid-30s, he changed his style to realism.
  3. A graduate of the University of Toronto, Victoria College, with a degree in geography, Robert attended the Ontario College of Education for his teaching degree. Teaching art and geography at the newly-opened Nelson High School in Burlington, Ontario as the only art teacher, Robert had to choose between the two subjects as a department head. He chose art.

    Ironically, the school board’s director of education thought that Robert lacked qualifications for this lofty position, asking the then-principal “can’t you do better than this?” The principal pleaded Bateman’s case resulting in the suggestion that he attend the Ontario College of Art for two summers to “make his paperwork look better.”
  4. By 2000, when Robert was turning 70, he began to wonder what he would do with all the art still in his possession (His five children no longer had available wall space). Many museums would only consider original art and much of that was already in private collections. So, his teaching instincts came to the forefront and he wondered whether all his art should be under one roof and if it could spark inspiration for people to have a connection with nature.

    On a trip back to Burlington, a friend suggested a ‘Bateman gallery’ or a wing in an existing gallery. After lots of discussion and hard work, The Bateman Foundation began in 2012 and on May 24, 2013 the Bateman Gallery in Victoria officially opened (on Robert Bateman’s 83rd birthday). The collection spans an impressive seven decades of work.
  5. The first executive director of the Bateman Gallery, Paul Gilbert, was a student of Robert in Burlington.

We hope Robert Bateman has inspired you to live a full and beautiful life connecting with nature. Come celebrate his birthday with the Bateman Foundation and Bateman Gallery this month.