Basil Ede (British, b. 1931)
Four Cardinals Perched upon the Branches
Paper size: 20 1/4 x 25 inches
Framed: 30 1/2 x 36 1/4 inches
Watercolor on paper
Signed lower right: Basil Ede 1970
Not since John James Audubon has an artist so successfully crafted such intricately detailed and elegant compositions of birds situated in their natural environments. Ede fully animates his subject matter, depicting them in life-like poses and using bold and vibrant colors. Furthermore, each of the birds' forms and plumage has been painstakingly and masterfully rendered.
Ede was born in Surrey, a town in the English countryside, in 1931. It was there that Ede developed a love for nature, and where he received his first instruction in natural history drawing. Like Audubon and Mark Catesby before him, Ede traveled extensively during his life. At 25 he traveled to Far East Asia as a ship's purser. This expedition introduced Ede to Oriental Art, a style of art that would greatly influence his own in the future. In 1958 Ede began exhibiting at Tryon Gallery, the first specialist wildlife gallery established in London. In 1964, he exhibited at the Smithsonian's Collection of Fine Arts. The institution had never before sponsored a show for a living artist. The following year Ede published his multi-edition Birds of Town and Village, which contained 36 plates of birds. In 1979 Jack W. Warner, CEO of Gulf Paper States Paper Corporation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, commissioned Ede to produce a series of paintings documenting every living North American bird. It took Ede more than a decade to complete the project. Ede's works have also been featured at a number of New York City galleries, and have been sponsored by the British Embassy, the Audubon Society, and the World Wild Life Fund. Ede is currently a member of the Society of Wild Life Artists.
Nearing 76 years of age, Ede has no doubt succeeded in breathing new life into a classic subject, raising the bar ever higher for twentieth-century bird painting. Perhaps Carl W. Buchheister, President Emeritus of the National Audubon Society, has summed up Ede's remarkable talent best. In a preface to the 1981 book, Basil Ede's Birds, he wrote: "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."