We are frequently contacted by people wanting to know whether or not they are in possession of an original painting or drawing by Edward Wilson of the Antarctic. Is it an original?

Most commonly, people are in posession of a print. However, both Edward Wilson and his family gave many of his pictures away.They rarely sold them except out of necessity, as Edward Wilson regarded his paintings as gifts from God to be given and shared. So there are a huge number of his original works in circulation, sometimes several original versions of one picture. This is particularly true of pictures from the Discovery expedition, which were given away as prizes for competitions aboard etc. and then repainted for sale in the Bruton Gallery for the Royal Geographical Society on the expedition’s return. If you wish to know whether or not you have an original, please take the following steps:

1. Remove the image from any frame.

2. Examine for markings etc. Most prints are cut out from books, particularly from the Seaver biographies and Barratt Hamilton’s British Mammals. These should be obvious once out of the frame. Most modern prints are produced by the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge or other museums and are marked accordingly.

3. If it isn’t still obviously a print then it may be from what is known as the Original Print Series.

Fifteen prints were originally issued by Edward Wilson’s widow, Oriana, in 1914 to benefit the Scott Appeal Fund. They were re-issued for the 1930 British Empire (Polar) Exhibition. In 1938 Oriana Wilson gave the remaining stock to the SPRI to sell. The 1914 sets were printed by Messrs. Hudson and Kearns of London. The publishers of the second (1930) series are unknown. There appears to be no easily discernable difference between the two printings.

The prints are of excellent quality and are often confused as originals, even at noted auction houses. However, if you compare your image to those below and find the perfect match, then it is probably one of these prints, as the location of all the original watercolours from which these were taken is known (although duplicate original water colours are possible – so look for variations in the image. If there are none, then it is a print).

Compare your picture to the print series below

Dr. Edward A. Wilson: Reproductions 1914/ 1930: Set List

Prints from this series are considered of such good quality that they are nevertheless sought after, provided that they are in good condition. Many are in poor condition, having faded due to exposure to sunlight.

4. If your picture is not identified as a print by any of the previous 3 steps, then take a look at the medium. Edward Wilson is known to have illustrated in water colour, pencil, pastel, charcoal, chalk and gouache but never in oil.

5. Edward Wilson signed his images using various versions of his name. Informal sketches are often simply signed Ted, or EAW. More formal sketches sometimes with E.A.Wilson and formal images intended for sale or publication usually signed Edward A. Wilson.

6. If your image has the characteristics of steps 5 and 6 – do please photograph your picture and send it to us… we will offer advice as to its likely authenticity if we can.

Whilst the value of pictures by Edward Wilson can be high, it depends very much upon the subject and condition of the picture. We hope that, in his spirit and that of the Wilson family, you will consider donating any picture to an appropriate public collection for all to enjoy.

We are often asked whether or not somebody might be related to Edward Wilson of the Antarctic. If you think that you might be related then you need to be able to find your relationship to somebody on the Wilson Family Tree.

The tree shows the generations of the siblings, parents and grandparents of Edward Adrian Wilson. Are you related to one of these?

Many of the family trees and lines of descent are well known. For example, everyone with the surname Whishaw (Edward Wilson’s mother) is related and if this is your surname, then you will be a cousin of some degree.
Are you related? If so, we would love to hear from you!

Wilson Family Tree

Select Bibliography and Further Reading

Armitage, A.B. Two Years in the Antarctic: Being a Narrative of the British National Antarctic Expedition. London, Edward Arnold, 1905 (Illustrated by E.A.Wilson)
Barrett Hamilton G. & Hinton M.A. A History of British Mammals. Parts 1-21. Illustrated by E.A.Wilson & Guy Dollman. London, Gurney & Jackson, 1910-1921
Chapman, A. Bird-life of the Borders: Records of Wild Sport and Natural History on Moorland and Sea. 2nd edition. London, Gurney & Jackson, 1907 [Frontispiece by E.A.Wilson]
Cherry Garrard, A. (ed.) The South Polar Times, Vol. III. London, Smith Elder & Co., 1914
— — The Worst Journey in the World. London, Constable, 1922
Fox, W. Terra Antarctica: Looking Into the Emptiest Continent. San Antonio, Texas, Trinity University Press, 2005
Higgins, H. The Semilunar Fibro-cartilages and Transverse Ligament of the Knee Joint, illustrated by E.A.Wilson. London, Journal of Anatomy and Physiology Vol. 29, 1895
King, H.G.R. (ed.) Edward Wilson: Diary of the ‘Terra Nova’ Expedition to the Antarctic 1910-1912. London, Blandford Press, 1972
— — (ed.) South Pole Odyssey: Selections from the Antarctic Diaries of Edward Wilson. Poole, Blandford Press, 1982
Knipe, H.R. Nebula to Man. London, Dent, 1905 [part illustrated by E.A. Wilson]
Lack, D.L. Some British pioneers in Ornithological Research 1859-1939. London, Ibis, Vol. 101 #1, 1959
Leslie A.S. & Shipley A.E. (eds.) The Grouse in Health and in Disease: Being the Final Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Grouse Disease. London, Smith Elder & Co., 1911
Prichard, H. Sport in Wildest Britain. “Illustrated from water-colour paintings by Dr. Edward A. Wilson”. London, William Heinemann, 1921
Roberts, B. (ed.) Edward Wilson: Birds of the Antarctic. London, Blandford Press, 1967
Rolleston, H.D. Diseases of the Liver, Gall Bladder and Bile-Ducts. Illustrated by E.A.Wilson. Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders, 1905
Savours, A. (ed.) Edward Wilson: Diary of the Discovery Expedition to the Antarctic Regions 1901-1904. London, Blandford Press, 1966
Scott, R.F. The Voyage of the Discovery. London, Smith Elder & Co., 1905
— — Scott’s Last Expedition. London, Smith Elder & Co., 1913
Seaver, G. Edward Wilson of the Antarctic: Naturalist and Friend. London, John Murray, 1933
— — Edward Wilson Nature Lover. London, John Murray, 1937
— — The Faith of Edward Wilson. London, John Murray, 1948
Shackleton, E.H. & Bernacchi, L.C. (eds.) The South Polar Times, Vols. I & II. London, Smith Elder & Co., 1907
Skelton, J.V. & Wilson, D.M. Discovery Illustrated: Pictures from Captain Scott’s First Antarctic Expedition. Cheltenham, Reardon Publishing, 2001
Walker, C.E. Old Flies in New Dresses: How to Dress dry Flies with the Wings in the Natural Position and Some New Wet Flies. Illustrated by E.A. Wilson & the author. London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1898
Williams, I. With Scott in the Antarctic: Edward Wilson Explorer, Naturalist, Artist. Stroud, The History Press, 2008
Wilson, D.M. The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott. London, Little Brown, 2011
Wilson, D.M.& Elder D.B. Cheltenham in Antarctica: the Life of Edward Wilson. Cheltenham, Reardon Publishing, 2000
Wilson, D.M.& Wilson C.J. Edward Wilson’s Nature Notebooks. Cheltenham, Reardon Publishing, 2004

Edward Wilson’s Antarctic Notebooks, Cheltenham, Reardon Publishing, 2011

Wilson, E.A. Notes on Antarctic Seals collected during the Expedition of the ‘Southern Cross’ in Report on the Collections of Natural History made in the Antarctic Regions during the Voyage of the ‘Southern Cross’. London, British Museum (Natural History), 1901
— — The Birds of the Island of South Trinidad. London, Ibis. 8th series, Vol.4 #14, 1904
— — On Some Antarctic Birds. London, Proceedings of the IVth International Ornithological Congress, 1905
— — Exhibit and Discussion on Albino Penguins (with W.E.Clarke, & Lord Rothschild). London, Bulletin of the British Ornithologist’s Club, Vol.15 #114, 1905
— — International Bird Protection. London, Bird Notes and News, No.10, July 1905
— — Penguins. London, Bird Notes and News, No.11, October 1905
— — The Distribution of Antarctic Seals and Birds. London, Geographical Journal, Vol. 25 #4, 1905
— — The Emperor Penguin. London, Ibis. 8th series, Vol.5 #18, 1905 [Summary of a lecture given at the Royal Institution on 27 January 1905. Reprinted from The Times, 28 January 1905]
— — Aves, in National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904, Natural History Vol. II Zoology. London, British Museum (Natural History), 1907
— — Mammalia, in National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904, Natural History Vol. II Zoology. London, British Museum (Natural History), 1907
— — National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904: Album of Photographs and Sketches with a Portfolio of Panoramic Views. London, Royal Society, 1908
— — The Changes of Plumage in the Red Grouse (Lagopus scoticus) in Health and in Disease. London, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, December 1910 [n.b. the ZSL proceedings for 1909/1910 contain articles by Shipley, Fantham and others involved with the Grouse Disease Inquiry which are illustrated by E.A.Wilson]
— — The British Antarctic Expedition. London, Geographical Journal, Vol 39 #6, 1912
Exhibition “Discovery” Antarctic Exhibition, Bruton Galleries Illustrated Catalogue. London, The Bruton Galleries, 1904
Exhibition British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913. Exhibition of Antarctic Sketches and Water Colours, Drawings of Swiss and Norwegian Scenery, Sketches of Birds etc. By Dr. Edward A. Wilson at the Alpine Club. London, Wm. Clowes & Sons, 1913

There are a large number of publications relating to Scott’s two Antarctic Expeditions containing illustrations by E.A.Wilson and references to his life and work. These are, however, too numerous to provide a comprehensive listing.