(John) Thomas Baines was born on the 27th November 1820, in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, the eldest son of master mariner John Baines, and Mary Ann Watson. Baines was educated at the Horatio Nelson’s Classical and Commercial Academy. At the age of 16, he was apprenticed to an ornamental carriage builder, and studied painting under the heraldic painter William Carr.  In 1842, inspired by other explorer artists, he left England bound for Cape Town where he worked as an artist, undertaking three journeys to the interior between 1848 and 1850.  In 1850-51 he served with the British army as an official war artist during the Eighth Frontier War, before returning to England. In 1852 he published his Scenery and Events in South Africa, and after two years lecturing, painting and writing in England, he sailed for Australia.

In March 1855 he was commissioned British government draughtsman and artist with the scientific team on the North Australian Expedition led by Augustus Charles Gregory. Baines sailed from Liverpool to Port Phillip and went on to meet Gregory in Sydney, and from there went on to join the land party which set out for Brisbane from the base at Victoria River in January 1856.  The expedition’s purpose was to explore the Victoria River district in the north-west and to evaluate the entire northern area of Australia in terms of its suitability for colonial settlement. Baines was highly commended for his contribution to the North Australian Expedition and Mount Baines and the Baines River were named in his honour. 

In July 1857 Baines departed Sydney for England.  He took with him 24 oil painting, a panoramic view of the Victoria River and 270 watercolours and sketches.

In 1858 Baines would go on to join David Livingstone’s Zambezi expedition as a storekeeper and artist, undertaking several excursions into the interior.  He would remain in South Africa for the rest of his life, exploring, painting and drawing.

Thomas Baines died in Durban on the 8th May 1875 and is buried in West Street Cemetery.

Gallery: Engravings of Thomas Baines’ artwork appearing in Edwin Carton Booth’s “Australia” published in 1873

Provenance: “Australia” vols. I & 2, 1873; Edwin Carton Booth F.R.C.I. with drawings by (John) Skinner Prout, N. (Nicholas) Chevalier, &c. &c.Author: Edwin Carton Booth
Contributor: John Skinner Prout (1805-1876)
Contributor: Nicholas Chevalier (1828-1902)
Date of Publication: 1873
Volume: I
Publisher: Virtue & Co
Place of Publishing: London
Copyright status: Out of copyright
Courtesy: The British Library

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