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Joy Adamson is internationally known as a conservationist and as author of the international best seller "Born Free”; the story of the lioness Elsa which she and her Game Ranger husband, George Adamson, raised from an orphaned cub and successfully rehabilitated back into the wild.
The book, and subsequent Oscar-winning film, raised conservation awareness to a whole generation and initiated concerns for the environment which thankfully are a world-wide priority today.
Joy founded the Elsa Conservation Trust based at Elsamere, her former home on the shore of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, where the Trust continues to promote conservation and environmental education. Joy is less known as an artist but her portraits of the peoples of East Africa and her botanical paintings are arguably her greater contribution to our appreciation of the culture and wildlife of Africa.
Joy was born in Austria in 1910 and, as a glamorous teenager and young lady lived in Vienna where she studied music and art. She showed great talent as a pianist but was frustrated by the small span of her hands so was denied a potential professional career but she was also a talented sculptor. With the threat of World War Two looming Joy sailed to Kenya to investigate the possibility of moving to East Africa and on this voyage she met the botanist Peter Bally, who was studying Kenya’s native flora. Bally was to become her second husband and once they married Joy accompanied Bally on his safaris and first began painting many of the specimens, eventually compiling a portfolio of over 700 paintings. Her talent for botanical paintings was recognised by Lady Muriel Jex Blake who commissioned Joy to illustrate her book ‘Gardening in East Africa’ which won the Grenfell gold medal awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Some of Joy’s paintings hang in State House in Nairobi and others are stored at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi, but fortunately many of the botanical paintings remain the property of the Elsa Conservation Trust and the eight prints exhibited in the Art of Giving Saatchi Gallery Exhibition have been reproduced for the first time to mark the centenary of Joy’s birth.
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