Plymouth from Mount Edgecombe, English School

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Basil Ede, SWA (born 1931)

He was a wildlife artist specialising in avian portraiture. He was educated at St John's School, Leatherhead. He later attended Kingston School of Art in Surrey.

However, in 1949, he was called up for compulsory military service in the British Army, becoming a commissioned officer.

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. 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.

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.

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

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.

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. The publication features a foreword written by H.R.H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and text by prominent ornithologist W. D. Campbell. The book was reprinted many times and was republished by Chartwell Books in 2004.

In 1966, 1971 and 1979 one man exhibitions of Ede's work were held at the Kennedy Galleries in New York. 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. Also in 1971, a chance encounter with another American collector, Jack Warner, led to the commissioning of "The Wild Birds of America" series.Described as a "very ambitious project", the commission was to paint every species of wild bird in North America, 650 in all, in life size. 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." The project was cut short in 1989, after Ede suffered a serious illness. 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. 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. In his foreword, H.R.H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,himself a collector of Ede's work, ranks the English painter among the world's great wildlife artists.

Basil Ede is one of the founder members of the Society of Wildlife Artists

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