Thomas Baines (1820 - 1875)

English artist and explorer born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, on 27 November 1820. At the age of 16, he began his apprenticeship as a coach painter. When he turned 22, he embarked on a journey to South Africa on the ship “Olivia” and worked in Cape Town as a scenic and portrait artist. He also served as an official war artist during the Eighth Frontier War for the British Army.

In 1855, Baines joined an expedition sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society and led by Augustus Gregory. He served as the official artist and storekeeper. The expedition aimed to explore the Victoria River district in the north-west of Australia and assess its suitability for colonial settlement. Baines’ involvement in the North Australian Expedition was the highlight of his career, earning him recognition and honors such as having Mount Baines and the Baines River named after him.

Baines’ explorations continued as he accompanied David Livingstone along the Zambezi in 1858, becoming one of the first white men to witness Victoria Falls. In 1869, he led a gold prospecting expedition to Mashonaland, which later became Rhodesia. Another notable expedition took place from 1861 to 1862 when Baines and James Chapman journeyed to South West Africa. This expedition marked the first extensive use of photography and painting, with both men keeping journals and commenting on each other’s practices. Baines also contributed drawings for the engravings in Alfred Russel Wallace’s book “The Malay Archipelago” published in 1869. In 1870, he obtained a concession from Lobengula, leader of the Matabele nation, to explore for gold between the Gweru and Hunyani rivers.

Thomas Baines passed away in Durban on 8 May 1875 and was laid to rest in West Street Cemetery.

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