BHS grad has earned international renown as wildlife painter

By Justin Schuver

A love of the outdoors, as well as a love of art, have led to a lucrative career for James Partee Jr.

Partee, a 1967 graduate of Bainbridge High School, has earned a variety of awards and honors in his 35-year career as an artist, naturalist and conservationist. Completely self-taught, Partee has earned a variety of awards, including the South Carolina Quail Unlimited Sportsman Award, the Ducks Unlimited National Palette Award, the Nebraska Sportsman Award and the Waterfowl USA Lifetime Achievement Award.

His original artwork and prints have raised more than $11 million for wildlife associations throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada. To date, more than 34,000 of his limited-edition prints and about 1,300 original paintings have been featured at prominent shows, wildlife banquets and humanitarian banquets.

Partee’s success has also allowed him to meet numerous famous people, including Dallas actor Steve Kanaly and professional golfer Nancy Lopez. Most recently, this April he got the “thrill of a lifetime” when he had the chance to have a face-to-face visit with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, of the United Kingdom. He was also asked to paint one of her favorite race horses, and presented the original to the queen personally during his visit.

“It was truly a once in a lifetime experience,” said Partee, who now lives in Kennesaw, Ga. “It was the most honored I’ve ever felt.”

Partee still credits his Bainbridge roots for helping him to become the successful artist that he is today. He said he enjoyed participating in Boy Scouts at a young age, and one of the biggest thrills of his childhood was earning his “God and Country” badge from the First Presbyterian Church.

“I was 14 years old when I got that badge and I was truly proud,” he said. “As a kid, I was always big in any out of door activities.”

Partee said his grandmother, Cecil Harrell, was one of the most encouraging voices to convince him to make art his career. Harrell passed away in 1993, and by then Partee was really starting to get his career to take off.

“My family all encouraged me, but she was especially encouraging,” he said. “She made the crack, ‘I’d love to see you do something with your art career. I’d love to life long enough to see it happen.’

“I’ve been very lucky to have had the successes that I have. I’ve had a wonderful career in the field of wildlife art, and getting to work with these wonderful humanitarian and wildlife associations.”

In 1980, Partee was selected to Who’s Who In Wildlife Art, and eventually won 16 different stamp/print competitions. In 1986, he was designated as the Georgia Governor’s Artist of Excellence, Quail Unlimited’s “Tenth Anniversary Artist,” Waterfowl USA’s “10th Anniversary Artist” and winner of the Georgia Duck Stamp Competition.

He has been a guest artist for Georgia Public Television — Outdoors Edition on several occasions, and his artwork has been published in many different magazines. Partee has also been selected to “The People of the Century Permanent Collection” at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Partee has had a long and successful career as a wildlife artist, but he might have achieved the highlight of that job just a few months ago. Partee and his artist friend, Michael Collins of Oklahoma City, Okla., were each asked to paint some of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite hunting animals, and were invited to personally present those paintings to the queen at her private residence in Sandringham, England, on April 15.

Partee said he was at a charity show in Las Vegas in 2011, when he and Collins light-heartedly discussed that Queen Elizabeth II “needed a Partee and Collins original” for her art collection. Listening to that conversation was Graham Browne, a long-time friend and associate of the British royal family.

“Two weeks later, I got an email from Graham, who said he had recently seen the queen, and that ‘her majesty would like to see if you gentlemen would be interested in painting some of her sporting animals,’” Partee said. “We couldn’t believe all this, and of course we said yes.”

Partee painted “Carlton House,” one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite race horses, and Collins painted “Muskett,”one of her most prized hunting dogs. He received 80 different photographs of the horse, to use as a model for his painting.

Partee thought the request for his painting talent was honor enough, but the stakes were raised even higher about two weeks later.

“We got another email later, from Buckingham Palace, that upon completion of the paintings, the queen was requesting a personal audience with us in England,” he said. “My blood pressure really shot up after that!”

Partee and his wife, Dale, as well as the Collinses, were invited guests of the royal family for five days in April, visiting historic and natural sites in England before the artists had their private meeting with the queen. On that Sunday, April 15, Partee was also invited to attend worship services at St. Mary Magdalene Church, the royal family’s chapel on the Sandringham estate.

Shortly after the completion of the services, Partee and Collins had the chance to have a face-to-face, personal discussion with Queen Elizabeth II.

“It was truly amazing to have the chance to speak with her,” Partee said. “The more I talked with her, the more she began to speak to me as if I were a family member. She was very friendly and smiling the whole time, and you could tell that she was really listening to us and paying attention to what we were saying.”

Partee said his family raised horses in Bainbridge when he was growing up, so he was able to talk with the queen about that particular subject — she is an avid horse fan. He also jokingly told her that she would love Atlanta, because that city had hosted the Olympics and London was preparing to host the Olympics as well.

At the end of the conversation, Partee said that Queen Elizabeth II said it was fine for Partee and Collins to make prints of the paintings, but she requested that they not be sold and instead be used for charity or wildlife-related causes. She also requested six additional prints for her own collection, in addition to receiving the original artwork from the artists.

“This is the only time that the queen has asked for a private artist to paint any of her favorite animals, and the first time that she has invited private individuals to meet with her in this way,” Partee said. “I was talking with Graham, and he jokingly said that ‘The president of the United States couldn’t have done what you just did.’”

To view examples of Partee’s work online, visit www.jamespartee.com.

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