Keeping the Legend Alive: Sir John Seerey-Lester

Renowned wildlife artist Sir John Seerey-Lester, “The Godfather of Wildlife Art,” is known for his immersive paintings paired with compelling and true stories that showcase the thrill and hardships that hunters and explorers face in the wild. Sporting Classics is honored to have published his Legends series: Legends of the Hunt (including the lion edition and the elephant edition) Legends of the Hunt Campfire Tales (including the leopard edition and the buffalo edition) and The Legendary Hunts of Theodore Roosevelt. The books in this series feature paintings and sketches from Sir John Seerey-Lester and the stories he spent the majority of his life researching, crafting and bringing to life.

Amid his fight against cancer, Sir John Seerey-Lester was working tirelessly on his final book of the Legends series, Legendary Hunters and Explorerswhen he passed away in May of 2020. He is survived by his wife and fellow artist, Suzie Seerey-Lester, who carries his torch with vigor and pride. Suzie recently visited the Sporting Classics office to see the fruits of her beloved husband’s lifelong passion and labor finally in print and to sign her name on the project she completed in his honor.

Legendary Hunters and Explorers is the epitome of Sir John Seerey-Lester’s spirit and purpose – to encompass the allure of adventure and appreciation and respect for all things wild the best way he knew how, through his paintings and writings. Its pages relive the most compelling stories of 25 acclaimed hunters and explorers, including that of frontiersman Hugh Glass who was savagely attacked by a grizzly bear, the life-threatening Arctic research expeditions of John Torrington and Adolphus Greeley and other eminently fascinating characters, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. All stories are complemented by more than 120 paintings of wildlife from around the world.

Just three weeks after his death, Suzie scrambled to save her husband’s lifework when the art studio succumbed to a flood. Overwhelmed, she gathered everything she could and retreated to the main house to finish the final book of the series in such a way that would honor her late husband’s aspirations. This was no simple task. What would John want? How would he do it? she wondered. Suzie spread paper writings and sketches across the floor, moving pieces around, playing with the order, which ended in frustration as she was discouraged it would not live up to her husband’s intentions. But she was struck with awe and peace when she reentered the studio days later to find John’s initial plans for the project matched perfectly with those she had done herself.

Amazing, yes, but not surprising once you learn of their love story. Suzie and John met when she was studying art in Guatemala. John led a small group of students through the forest before dawn to follow a herd of deer and study them in their natural habitat. Upon spotting the deer, the group heard a low growl, and realized they were standing between a jaguar and his breakfast. It is moments like these that inspired Sir John Seerey-Lester’s art, and Suzie’s mirrored passion led them to 25 years of a beautiful marriage and partnership.

Now over a year since his passing, Suzie walks the beaches of Florida in her efforts to protect sea turtles from predators and ensure their safety on their journey from shore to sea. On these walks, she is constantly finding small, smooth rocks, tumbled and worn down until shaped in the perfect heart. She found one in the exact place where she spread her husband’s ashes – a sure sign that he is with her every step of the way.

Finishing the final book in the iconic Legends series was Suzie’s way of “keeping the legend alive” – an endeavor she happily takes on and will continue to do so for the rest of her days.