Science, Art & the Heart: Bruce Lawes Paints the Magic of Gombe for Goodall

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The images Dr. Jane Goodall brought the world connected (and still do connect, nearly 60 years later) millions of people with the special spirit of the forest, and the wild, wonderful chimpanzees of Gombe. Her scientific discoveries in Gombe shattered our notions around what it means to be human, and more importantly, what it means to be a part of the larger, intricate web of life. To honor the profound essence of the work of Dr. Goodall, and the majesty of the jungle she showed the world, Bruce Lawes has used this inspiration to create a miraculous piece of art called Spirit of the Forest.

Bruce Lawes- Frame for Spirit of the Forest low res

When I first saw this painting, Spirit of the Forest, I was silent; completely in awe. I was back in those days when I could spend hours observing and learning from chimpanzees like Fifi and infant Flirt, whose very essence is depicted here. It captures the magic of the rain forest and is symbolic of all that is most meaningful in my life. I hope for anyone who sees this painting that it too will open a window into this wonderful world.

– Dr. Jane Goodall

Bruce Lawes has taken the wonder of the scientific observations of Dr. Goodall and the ethereal aura of her research subjects, combining them to develop a masterful, impressively realistic painting. The piece features Fifi and Flirt, an extremely successful and special chimpanzee mother and her child made famous by Dr. Goodall’s studies. Her studies first revealed the nature of the deep, unique maternal bonds of chimpanzees, along with other astounding chimp behaviors such as tool use and warfare. Framing Fifi and Flirt is the waterfall Jane so often visited and still reveres as a sacred site central to her experiences in Gombe. Dr. Goodall has often spoken of the mystical energy of the forest, “The forest is for me a temple — a cathedral of tree canopies and dancing light.” Lawes specifically showcased this important waterfall for that reason, and to reference the puzzling, marvelous behavior of some chimps to “perform” around it in response to its impressive force.

Bruce Lawes- A Little Flirt low res

‘Spirit of the Forest’ was both a journey of the past adventures of an incredible lady, and a journey with great personal meaning. Dr. Jane Goodall has been my hero since my early childhood and I was determined, not only to create a significant painting, but also create something that she would be proud to say represented a part of her life with fond memories.

– Artist Bruce Lawes

This pairing of passion and purpose has transformed the principle substance of Dr. Goodall and her work into something transcendent and powerful. Our interfacing with nature should of course come in the form of outdoor treks and immersion in nature, but it is evident that the transmittance of nature through art can have a very strong, positive effect as well. Goodall concludes, “During my lifetime of exploring and learning from nature I have been saddened by the harm we humans have inflicted everywhere. But nature is amazingly resilient if we give her a chance. We must each play our part to help preserve life on earth – and this painting is just one example of all that Bruce does to bring nature into our lives.” In its ability to transport us to the sparking, timeless essentiality of Dr. Goodall’s gift of the grace of Gombe, and to achieve a greater sense of responsibility to protect chimpanzees, their forests, and all living things, this painting is a remarkable treasure.

Bruce and Dr Jane Goodall with painting in New York City, Spirit of the Forest Low res

Spirit of the Forest will be available for live auction during the Jackson Hole Art Auction, a recognized leader in classic western and wildlife art, which is held every year in September at the Jackson Hole, Wyo. Center for the Arts. Thanks to Lawes and the two gallery partners involved with the auction, the Gerald Peters Gallery, Mr. Gerald Peters and Trailside Galleries, partners Roxanne Hofmann & Maryvonne Leshe, one hundred percent of the proceeds from the auction sale of, the painting will be donated to the Jane Goodall Institute.

About Bruce Lawes

Bruce K. Lawes is an internationally collected artist with a passion for animal art and conservation. He is a signature member of the Artists for Conservation (AFC), The Society of Animal Artists (SAA) and The Oil Painters of America (OPA). He was born in 1962 in Toronto, Canada.   International Artist Magazine wrote,  “One of  the first things you notice about the art of Bruce Lawes is the artist’s versatility; whether it be a figurative painting, a landscape or an equine his work always upholds a strong  level of quality, craftsmanship and technical skill.” Art of the West Magazine recently praised Lawes as “one of the most versatile among today’s field of highly skilled representational artists, Lawes moves with seamless articulation between the genres of wildlife and equine portraiture, landscapes, and figurative renditions of historic events.” To learn more about Bruce’s work and view more of his art, visit: bklawesart.com.


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The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Community Engagement Specialist at the Jane Goodall Institute, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Biology. She has a varied background including conservation fieldwork, scenic painting instruction, mural collaboration, public relations, communications, digital media, graphic design, photography, and documentary filmmaking. She has contributed to the digital news production company Zazoom, LLC (Buzz60) and as Communications Coordinator at the youth-centered, social justice organization Scenarios USA. Ashley is a swashbuckling artist and ukuleleist with a passion for sharing information to empower and using media to tell stories. Through growing understanding and empathy, she believes it is possible to ignite positive change, every day.