John Thomas Baines
John Thomas Baines was born on 27 November 1820 in Norfolk, England and died on 8 May 1875 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Baines arrived in Cape Town on 23 November 1842. He had served an apprenticeship in England as an ornamental carriage painter and he was persuaded to concentrate on his artistic skills. He was inspired by the example of explorer artists such as George French Angas and William Cornwallis Harris.
Baines based himself in the Eastern Cape between 1848 and 1853 and from here he undertook three journeys in to the interior - beyond the Orange River (1848), beyond the Kei River and over the Winterberg (1849) and an attempt to reach the Okavango Swamps (1850). He became South Africa's first official war artist and recorded the Eighth Frontier War (1850 - 1853).
Baines spent two years lecturing, writing and painting in England before he left for Australia in March 1855 with the explorer A.C. Gregory. Mount Baines in Victoria was named in his honour. He returned to London in September 1857 and was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS). He joined David Livingstone's expedition to the Zambezi River as an artist and storekeeper in 1858. Baines was wrongly accused of theft and returned to Cape Town in December 1859.
Prince Alfred's 1860 visit provided Baines with work and the money to join James Chapman's expedition down the Zambezi River in 1861 - 1862. On his return he painted the bird studies for C.J Andersson's Birds of Damaraland and the adjacent countries…, (London, 1872). Baines described this expedition in Explorations in south West Africa: being an account of a journey in the years 1861 and 1862 from Walvisch Bay, on the western coast, to Lake Ngami and the Victoria Falls (London 1864). He also produced a large folio The Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, sketched on the spot (London, 1985). He returned to the Cape and then to England until December 1867.
Baines was chosen to lead two expeditions from Durban for the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company into southern Zimbabwe in 1869 and in 1872. In 1873 he visited the Injembe district of Natal to investigate gold deposits and he attended the Zulu King Cetshwayo's coronation. He was busy writing an account of his expeditions when he fell ill and died in Durban.
Baines is best remembered as an artist of numerous landscapes, nature studies, historic paintings and representations of people and as a result his work can be seen in numerous collections in South Africa including the Africana Museum, Albany Museum, King George VI Art Gallery and Local History Museum. In addition to his own publications and artist folios a number of books have been written about Baines and his work. Christie's held a significant exhibition of the artists' work entitled Thomas Baines: An artist in the service of science in Southern Africa in 1999.
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