Thomas Baines

John Thomas Baines (* November 27, 1820 in King's Lynn, England; † May 8, 1875 in Durban, South Africa ) was an English artist and explorer. He traveled mainly the British colonies, southern Africa and Australia.


Born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, Thomas Baines learned at a young age with a painter. Inspired by George French Angas (1822-1886) and William Cornwallis Harris (1807-1848) he left at age 22 aboard the " Olivia", whose captain was a friend of the family, England to South Africa and worked in Cape Town as a landscape and portrait painter. Already at that time he undertook first expeditions into the territory of today's Namibia and Botswana. In the first two years of the eighth border war the British against the Xhosa ( 1850-1853 ) he worked as a painter for the British Army.

1852 Baines returned back to his hometown, where he exhibited his work and passed his experiences in lectures. He attended the Royal Geographical Society to discuss with geographers such as John Arrowsmith (1780-1873) about his experiences from his travels.

In 1855 Augustus Gregory Baines joined and accompanied him until 1857 on a sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society expedition through northern Australia as a painter and material managers. The aim of the expedition was to explore the Victoria River in the Northern Territory for the purpose of determining suitability for colonial settlement. His activities as part of the North Australian Expedition was the highlight of his life. In gratitude and honor for his contribution during the expedition of Mount Baines and the Baines River were named after him.

After his return from Australia was Thomas Baines member of the Royal Geographical Society. 1858 Baines accompanied David Livingstone on his expedition along the Zambezi and was one of the first Europeans who saw the Victoria Falls. However, the cooperation with Livingstone ended in a debacle when he was unjustly accused of theft and was sent back to Cape Town.

From 1861-1862 Baines undertook along with James Chapman, an expedition through the territory of present-day Botswana and Namibia. In 1861 he painted in what is now Nxai Pan National Park, a group of baobab trees that still exist today and are called Baines Baobabs. In 1864 he again went on an expedition in Africa's south-west. In 1869 he led an expedition in search of gold in Mashonaland (now Zimbabwe belonging ). 1871 Baines received by Matabele King Lobengula concession to search for gold in the region between Gweru and Hunyani Rivers.

Thomas Baines died in 1875 at the age of 55 years in Durban, South Africa from dysentery. In the South African Eastern Cape Province was held in his honor a nature reserve, the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve, named after him.


Thomas Baines is known for his detailed paintings and sketches of landscapes and life in the colonies. Many of his paintings can today be found in the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Zimbabwe, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Brenthurst Library in Johannesburg and at the Royal Geographical Society in London.