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The original peoples of the Americas spread all over the hemisphere into every imaginable habitat. Cultures evolved to fit the place and standard of living. Where life was easier and food sources plentiful, rich and elaborate customs and arts developed. In my opinion, one of the most sophisticated systems of art and design of any human beings developed among the tribes of the northwest coast of America. They had a fairly moderate climate and abundant food from the sea. They used to say, "When the tide is out, the table is set." In addition, they had magnificent big trees such as the red cedar with workable, yet rot resistant wood. From this timber they built large houses with split boards, big seagoing canoes and, of course, the superb totem poles.

These poles represented family heraldry and contained totemic animals and spirits as motifs. The tribes in this culture were very proud and competitive. They tried to outdo each other in the arts as well as in material goods and warfare. Immediately after contact with Europeans and the acquisition of iron tools, the quantity and quality of the arts exploded in a great flowering. That lasted only a few decades. It was like the Athens of Pericles.

As in all great art, there is a balance between variety and harmony in the totem carvings. The real wood is abstracted with as much sophistication as is shown by Picasso. All the shapes are composed of clean curves or straight lines, yet each shape shrinks or swells and nestles into its neighbor so that positive and negative become one. It is like the Chinese Yin and Yang symbol. I feel that the characteristic way in which the shapes fit inside each other might come from gazing into reflections in gently moving water.

Most of the great totem poles were destroyed by warfare, by missionaries or were carried off by museums or collectors. The remaining ones have been ravaged by time and decay.

Recently, I was privileged to visit the best place where the poles still stand as they were erected for their original purpose. It is considered such an important example of human culture that it has been set aside as a United Nations Heritage Site. I felt a strong, spiritual presence as the visages on the poles face the sea with their back to the giant cathedral-like forest. Echoing through the forest were the songs of the hermit thrush like delicate organ music. In the painting I have shown my pole with the image of a killer whale. At the side is a hermit thrush whose presence was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

- Robert Bateman

Spirits of the Forest - Totems and Hermit Thrush
by Robert Bateman
VIP SALE - Phone Orders ONLY - Toll-Free 1-877-444-0777
Save Up to 40% Off Our Website Prices on Bateman Art


Robert Bateman - Spirits of the Forest - Totems and Hermit Thrush
This Piece has been Hand-Signed by Robert Bateman

  • Signed by the Artist
  • Paper Lithograph
  • Limited Edition
  • 950 S/N
  • 15 3/4 x 20
TODAY'S PRICE
$595.00
Was $1,250.00!

The original peoples of the Americas spread all over the hemisphere into every imaginable habitat. Cultures evolved to fit the place and standard of living. Where life was easier and food sources plentiful, rich and elaborate customs and arts developed. In my opinion, one of the most sophisticated systems of art and design of any human beings developed among the tribes of the northwest coast of America. They had a fairly moderate climate and abundant food from the sea. They used to say, "When the tide is out, the table is set." In addition, they had magnificent big trees such as the red cedar with workable, yet rot resistant wood. From this timber they built large houses with split boards, big seagoing canoes and, of course, the superb totem poles.

These poles represented family heraldry and contained totemic animals and spirits as motifs. The tribes in this culture were very proud and competitive. They tried to outdo each other in the arts as well as in material goods and warfare. Immediately after contact with Europeans and the acquisition of iron tools, the quantity and quality of the arts exploded in a great flowering. That lasted only a few decades. It was like the Athens of Pericles.

As in all great art, there is a balance between variety and harmony in the totem carvings. The real wood is abstracted with as much sophistication as is shown by Picasso. All the shapes are composed of clean curves or straight lines, yet each shape shrinks or swells and nestles into its neighbor so that positive and negative become one. It is like the Chinese Yin and Yang symbol. I feel that the characteristic way in which the shapes fit inside each other might come from gazing into reflections in gently moving water.

Most of the great totem poles were destroyed by warfare, by missionaries or were carried off by museums or collectors. The remaining ones have been ravaged by time and decay.

Recently, I was privileged to visit the best place where the poles still stand as they were erected for their original purpose. It is considered such an important example of human culture that it has been set aside as a United Nations Heritage Site. I felt a strong, spiritual presence as the visages on the poles face the sea with their back to the giant cathedral-like forest. Echoing through the forest were the songs of the hermit thrush like delicate organ music. In the painting I have shown my pole with the image of a killer whale. At the side is a hermit thrush whose presence was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

- Robert Bateman


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