When I was in high school, my art class took a field trip to a gallery in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, to view a show featuring some Canadian wildlife artists. I wandered around the room looking at various paintings of foxes and wolves and loons. They were all impressive, and I thought I could have stayed there all day, but one kept drawing me back.
It was an arctic gyrfalcon sitting on a cliff. The thing that was most remarkable to me was the atmospheric feeling about it. Even though the focus was on the bird and the rock, it gave the feeling that I was viewing something that was very high up in the air.
I went back to this painting so many times that my classmates started making fun of me. “Nancy really likes that one!”
I didn’t care. I wanted to make sure I remembered the name of the artist. And his name became emblazoned on my brain: Robert Bateman.
That was in the late 1970’s. Now everyone who is the slightest interest in the wildlife art world has heard of Mr. Bateman, and most are familiar with his dusky technique, his soft naturalistic stroke, his muted colors. I can usually identify his work on sight.
I was even able to meet him in person one day in the early 1990’s, when he was riding the crest of his fame and success. I had stopped at a bookstore in Ann Arbor, and saw a modest sign on the door: “Artist Robert Bateman, here today.” I could hardly believe my luck! I went home and got the book I had featuring his work, and brought it back so he could sign it. Like many artists, he was rumpled, soft-spoken and modest. He spoke reverently about the earth and its creatures. I was smitten. I was so tongue-tied that I couldn’t express my admiration, or even propose marriage. But I did hold out my hand, and he shook it and I came away thinking I’d never wash the hand again.
So when I was approached by Fulcrum Gallery to blog about their product, and they offered to send me a print, I skimmed through what they had available. I was thrilled to find Bateman’s “Tropical Cougar” in their inventory. Fortunately, their website was easy to navigate. I pored over matte colors and deliberated over how to frame it. Finally, I picked a soft eggshell matte and dark wooden frame to match the understated tones in the image. It arrived two days ago, packed securely in cardboard, flawlessly framed in the colors I requested. It now hangs in my bedroom, designed to inspire me every morning. Thanks Fulcrum Gallery. Thanks Robert Bateman. I did eventually wash my hand, but now at least I have one of your prints.