John Tolmay has been sculpting African wildlife, hunting scenes and African tribes people in bronze since 1999. He took his thorough knowledge of African animals and people, combined that with his considerable talent as an artist and has subsequently gone on to sell hundreds of bronze pieces to discerning collectors of art worldwide.
He was born in Southern Rhodesia in 1943, growing up on a sprawling cattle ranch, which his father had carved out of virgin land after the Second World War. Busy with the business of building the ranch, John’s father employed a raw, bush-wise African to look after and tutor him about the bush. There couldn’t have been a better teacher for a small boy growing up in that enormous wilderness. This is where John got his first taste of hunting adventures, understanding the bush and surviving it all.
Formal schooling afforded John the chance to enjoy the bush as much as the classroom. Needless to say, the bush was always more interesting to him. It was here that he started to draw observations in nature and also developed a healthy interest in the American West, which showed in his early sketchbooks. His first sculpture was made in 1959 for his final Art Examination – it was a bust of an American Indian – for which he received Honors.
Agricultural College followed and the desire to broaden his horizons took him to Europe and then on to America where he worked in Nebraska and New Mexico as a cowboy. He returned to Rhodesia in 1966, married Di, put all that education to some use and went ranching. It was at that time he taught himself to paint in oils and when time afforded him the chance, he still modeled in clay and wood.
Call it serendipity, call it fate but in 1974 he started guiding Safaris for tourist hunters from overseas and in 1980 sold the ranch, and devoted his time to being a hunting guide. Little did he know that those years hunting and guiding were his anatomy classes for his future career as a sculptor. He completed and sold his first piece of Bronze Art in 1988. It was of a Kudu Bull and is still a part of the Bronze Africa Collection.
Now sculpting is a full time occupation. John lives in that headspace between past and present, translating scenes and images that are vividly recorded his mind into waxes and clays. Based in Franklin, North Carolina, his bronzes are exclusively cast in foundries in the United States and grace homes, studios, trophy rooms and offices around the world.