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Thomas Bains was an English artist and explorer of the British colonial areas of southern Africa and Australia. He was also a well-known author and a noted astronomer. However, his legacy as an artist and explorer goes far beyond his travels. Among his many accomplishments are his sketches, paintings, and sculptures. You may be surprised to learn that he was also an explorer.

Born in England, Thomas Baines was educated at the Classical and Commercial Academy of Horatio Nelson. He began his working life as an apprentice carriage builder, but soon turned to painting. He studied under heraldic painter William Carr. In 1841, he set sail on the Olivia bound for Cape Town. Upon reaching South Africa, he produced a series of paintings, some of which are on display in museums and libraries worldwide.

The majority of Baines' work was created during his travels in southern Africa and Australia. He spent time in Africa, painting and sketching to finance his travels. He became an official war artist for the British forces during the Cape Frontier War. After returning to England, he joined the Royal Geographical Society's expedition to North Western Australia, and served as an official war artist. A river in the northern part of the continent bears his name.

After a successful exploration of the Matabele nation, Thomas Baines returned to England in 1864. He led an expedition to meet the Matabele king, but died before he could get there. In 1870, he was granted a concession to explore gold in the country. In addition to his numerous explorations, Baines published two books: The Gold Regions of South Africa and Explorations in South-West Africa.

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