George Adamson with Boy and Christian, 1989


Limited edition print publication date: 1990

Edition size: 850 copies

Published price: £15

Maximum known secondary market price reached: £250

Gary says “Seeing the iconic film Born Free was a huge childhood memory and had a lasting impact on my life. I first met Virginia McKenna and the late Bill Travers in the summer of 1989 at the Society of Wildlife Artists’ annual exhibition in London. I was a little overwhelmed to meet them and shocked when they wanted to buy my Elephants Africains drawing. I can so clearly remember now, just how lovely and calming they were to me on that eventful day.

“Very soon after that meeting, George Adamson was tragically murdered in his homeland, Kenya. Again, through the Born Free film, George also inspired some of my feelings about animals. Deep down I really believe they should never be imprisoned in zoos for our entertainment.

“Unexpectedly, I received a phone call from a very sad Virginia asking if I would be able to undertake a commission of her dear friend, George. I knew I was good at capturing animals’ individual characters, but I had very little experience in drawing people. Virginia had faith in me, so I sheepishly agreed.

“She sent me some video footage of George and Boy and Christian, his two favourite lions and also some additional photos. We arranged to meet up soon after when I’d had time to sketch out a few ideas.

“She especially liked one rough sketch. I explained the effect I wished to achieve with it: George’s face delicately drawn in soft, silvery grey pencil looking down lovingly on his lions, who would be drawn in much darker solid shades. I found a lovely brief section in one of the videos sent, of Boy and Christian walking alongside each other, heads nuzzled together, that I thought perfect for my picture.



“I was beginning to feel more confident in my ability to do justice to this enormous undertaking.

I really can’t remember how long the drawing took me, but when it was finally finished, Virginia came to my home in London to see it. It was Virginia’s turn to be overwhelmed. She absolutely loved it. I felt so proud of myself, and relieved!

“Virginia’s wonderful autobiography ‘The Life in my Years’ has just been published (March 2009) and includes this drawing when she writes about Christian first meeting Boy. Christian has also been made famous in a recent TV film and a short but heart-wrenching You Tube video called ‘Christian the lion – reunion’ which has received over 50 million hits.”

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