Sir John Seerey-Lester is a world-famous artist, author, and conservationist with a penchant for historical hunts. His works celebrate the classic safaris and hunting trips of such famous sportsmen as Theodore Roosevelt and his contemporaries, with North American and African wildlife figuring heavily in his paint and prose.
Seerey-Lester’s work is showcased in a number of galleries across the globe, including the White House. He was formally knighted in 2013 by his Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Andreas of Austria for his work in conservation.
Seerey-Lester picked 20 of his favorite pieces to showcase on Sporting Classics Daily, each with a special reason for its inclusion. Some are from his new book The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt; others were printed in Legends of the Hunt: Campfire Tales, and others come from all across his distinguished career. Both books can be purchased through the Sporting Classics Store.
I enjoyed this painting and recruited my wife, Suzie and our closest fiends, Jack and Mary Jo Perkins and Chuck and Maureen Snyder, to pose in costume as the threatened safari party.
This was a complex painting as there was so much going on and there are several light sources, which was most challenging. But I liked the end result.
This painting was featured in my second book in the “Legends Series,” called Campfire Tales. This was another challenging painting. I had to change the light source on the set I erected just outside the studio. This meant I had to imagine how the light from the oil lamp would be cast on the sheets and items on the table.
I have always likes this painting. It is a tongue-in-cheek self portrait of an imaginary incident. However, I am often asked if this really happened to me, to which I answer, “No; if it had, I wouldn’t be here talking to you now.”
Again, this is one of my favorite subjects and settings. I enjoy painting the cool moonlight and contrasting it with the warm light from a fire or oil/gas lamp. This painting tells its own story once you know the title.
This painting was competed in 1994, but it was included in my new book to accompany and act as a relief to one of the stories about Theodore Roosevelt’s grueling journey down Brazil’s River of Doubt. I felt that the end result was a pastoral scene set in a soft mist; as a pair of Cuvier’s toucans went about their morning preen in the canopy.
Wolves are adept swimmers. Indeed, entire packs of the big predators have been seen swimming across large lakes in the North Country.
I chose to paint three wolves, as I feel odd numbers work better than even numbers. I really liked the idea of this brightly lit wake caused by the animals in the dark water. This contributed to the design.
I wanted to tell a story of the black rhino’s plight. I chose to have it looking off at the setting sun, which symbolizes its endangered status.
Continuing the predicament-painting theme, this painting represents our worst nightmare. Like most of my paintings, this represents a real-life incident and is one of my personal favorites.
Another predicament painting, which appeared in the first of the books in the Legends of the Hunt series. This painting tells part of a true story which took place in British East Africa at the beginning of the last century. My wife, Suzie, posed for both women, and my regular model, Chuck, as the man.
The leopard is one of the most handsome of the big cats. In this painting, the title refers to both the leopard and the reflection of a hunter in one of the cat’s eyes. As the hunter approaches the cat remains still, with an occasional switch of the tail as he prepares to meet his foe. The full story can be found in The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt.
This painting had been hanging around in my imagination for quite some time. I could see it clearly in my mind’s eye as an atmospheric piece, but I could not decide how to paint it. In the end I chose to use water-soluble oil paint as a series of subtle values. I was quite pleased with the end result.
My son John Jr. posed as the young Theodore Roosevelt in this painting. My main challenge with this painting was getting the scale of the bear to work with TR in the foreground. At first the bear was too big for the figure. I repainted it, enlarging TR, then the perspective looked true.
“Predicament” paintings, as I call them, are my favorite subjects to paint. I like the drama it affords me. In this case, picnickers in the early 1900s Africa are unexpectedly threatened by an approaching herd of elephants. I like paintings to tell a story.
This was a most exciting painting to produce. The main subject is the raven, not the bison in the background. This painting is based on Native America lore: Plains Indians would gather to discuss their future hunting tactics. They believed the ravens perched in the trees nearby would over hear their plans and fly off to warn the enemies, or in this case, their main food source — the bison.
I don’t have many favorite paintings. When asked I usually say my favorite is the one on the easel now. Few paintings live up to what you imagine before you sit down at the easel.
This painting is an exception. I really liked the end result and am very pleased it is my new book.
I enjoyed trying to realistically convey the texture and depth of snow in this painting. Capturing a convincing play of moonlight and shadow was even more challenging. To add interest, I chose to place the cougar in the shadow and have the cast shadow lead the viewer’s eye into the big cat.
This has always been a personal favorite of mine. I had the idea during a field trip to Alaska some 30 years ago. I found the moose hair stuck in the branches of a tree. I took the hair home with me and decided to paint a tree with the moose hair in it and use the moose as a backdrop in a lighter value.
This painting, which depicts an actual incident in the 1800s, provided me with another opportunity to produce a predicament painting.
In this painting, the two men appear in sharp contrast to the loose and soft-edged herd of bison in the background. I wanted to create the illusion of a terrifying jostling of beasts fast approaching the men.
I designed this painting like a stage. The two hunters hidden behind the footlights in shadow. The sun breaking through the storm clouds acts as a huge spotlight illuminating the cast of characters (the bison) center stage. The dramatic lighting helped the composition.
To have your own copies of Seerey-Lester’s work, select from two editions of The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt today!