William Bliss Baker
|William Bliss Baker|
Fallen Monarchs by Baker.
|Born||November 27, 1859
New York City
|Died||November 20, 1886
Hoosick Falls, New York
|Training||M.F.H. de Haas
Morning After the Snow
|Awards||Elliott Prize for Drawing (1879)
Hallgarten Prize (1885)[n 1]
William Bliss Baker (November 27, 1859[n 2] – November 20, 1886) was an award-winning American artist who began painting just as the Hudson River school was winding down. Baker began his studies in 1876 at the National Academy of Design, where he studied with Bierstadt and de Haas. He later maintained studios in Clifton Park, New York, and New York City, where he painted in oils and watercolors. He completed more than 130 paintings, including several works in black and white.
Baker was just beginning to hit his stride as a landscape painter when he died at his father's house at Hoosick Falls, New York, at the age of 26.[n 3] The New York Times said that his death "deprived America of one of its most promising artists."
Baker was born November 27, 1859, in New York City, the son of Yale alum Benjamin Franklin Baker (b. 1834) and Harriette Luisa Bayeux (married 1857). Harriette was descended from well-to-do Huguenots who moved from France to New York before the American Revolutionary War. Benjamin's father was Ellis Baker (1793-1873), director of the Albany City Bank, Albany Mutual Insurance Company, and People's Line Steamboats, as well as founder of Albany Rural Cemetery and Albany Hospital. He also operated stagecoach lines from Albany to Boston as well as north and west of Albany.
Benjamin served during the American Civil War as a colonel in the 43rd Regiment of the New York State Volunteers. Later, he commanded the Light Division of Sixth Corps (part of the Army of the Potomac) as a Brevet Brigadier General. He was noted for his bravery during the charge at Marye's Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg. After the war, he joined the Loyal Legion, then served as a member of the New York State Assembly from 1880 to 1882.
William's best-known brother was Captain Guy Ellis Baker (b. 1858), who married Louisa Irene Palma Di Cesnola, daughter of Civil War Medal of Honor recipient General Louis Palma di Cesnola. His other brothers included Benjamin Henry (b. 1869), George Clinton (b. 1872), and Ashley Bayeux (b. 1877). Baker spent much of his boyhood in the town of Ballston Spa, and he discovered the property where he would build his summer studio while fishing with a friend on Ballston Lake.
For four years beginning in 1876, Baker studied at the National Academy of Design, where he studied with Albert Bierstadt and Mauritz F. H. de Haas.  In 1879, he won the Elliott prize during his first exhibit. In 1885, Baker won the Hallgarten Prize for his Woodland Brook.
By 1881, Baker had built a summer studio named "The Castle"[n 4] on the east side of Ballston Lake in the town of Clifton Park, north of Albany, New York. The studio was designed to have excellent views of the Catskill and Berkshire Mountains, and had excellent natural lighting. The Clifton Park Historic Preservation Commission awarded "The Castle" its Historic Designation plaque, and a "Clifton Park Register of Historic Places" sign also marks the studio property. The home is now a private residence, and it is not open to the public. Baker also had a studio in the Knickerbocker Building in New York City.
Baker was just beginning to hit his stride as a landscape painter in the Realism movement when he died on November 20, 1886 at the age of 26[n 3] of a cold at his father's house at Hoosick Falls, New York after sustaining injuries while ice skating. His final work was Meadow Brook. Baker completed over 130 paintings in his career.
Fallen Monarchs, considered to be Baker's masterpiece, was painted in the Ballston Lake area. The original is owned by Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where it hangs in the BYU Museum of Art. A small copy of this painting hangs in the public library in the town of Ballston. His 1883 painting, A Pleasant Day at Lake George hangs in the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York.
Another of his paintings, Morning After the Snow, sold for $5000 in 1887 (the equivalent of about $109,000 in 2006 dollars). Morning and an additional 129 of his paintings sold at that auction for a combined total of nearly $15,000 (almost $360,000 in 2010 dollars).
Black and white
- The Brook (unknown)
- Dark Forest (unknown)
- Morning in the Meadows (unknown)
- Hiding in the Haycocks (1881, housed in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art)
- Landscape: Grez (ca.1882, housed as part of the Horace C. Henry Collection at the Henry Art Gallery at University of Washington)
- A Pleasant Day at Lake George (1883, housed in the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York)
- View of New York Harbor, with Brooklyn Bridge in the Distance (1883)
- October Morning (1884)
- First Fall of Snow (1884)
- First Snow of Winter (1884)
- Summer Evening (ca.1884)
- Woodland Brook (ca.1884-1885, housed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montréal)
- Lake Luzerne (ca.1885)
- Morning After the Snow (1885, housed in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, St. Bonaventure University)
- Fallen Monarchs (1886, housed in the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University)
- Under the Apple-Trees (1886)
- Meadow Brook (ca.1886, his last completed work)
- A Cool Retreat (unknown)
- April Day (unknown)
- April Snow (unknown)
- Autumn in Woods (unknown)
- Autumn Woods (unknown)
- Bed of a Brook (unknown)
- Branches of Elm (unknown)
- Cattle Grazing Near a Stream Through the Pasture (unknown)
- Church Beyond a Meadow (unknown)
- Clover Field (unknown)
- Corn Fields and Pasture (unknown)
- Dead Leaves (unknown)
- Dried Up (unknown)
- Early Autumn (unknown)
- Edge of the Woods (unknown)
- Fallen (a study) (unknown)
- A Forest Glade (unknown)
- Forest Sunshine (unknown)
- A Haze (unknown)
- In the Old Pasture (unknown)
- June Pastures (unknown)
- June Sunshine (unknown)
- Landscape with Cattle (unknown)
- The Old Orchard (unknown)
- Orchard in June (unknown)
- A Quiet Pond, Connecticut (unknown, reviewed in An Alluring Path III)
- Schoharie Creek (unknown)
- Second Growth Timber (unknown)
- Shadows in a Pool (unknown)
- Shady Pool (unknown)
- Silence (unknown, 24x30 inches (height x length))
- Snow Scene (unknown)
- Solitude (unknown)
- Spring Pasture (unknown)
- Still Pool in the Woods (unknown)
- Study of Snow (unknown)
- Summer Afternoon (unknown)
- Sunny Brook (unknown)
- Sunrise on New York Harbor (unknown)
- Under the Apple Trees (unknown)
- Wood Interior (unknown)
- Wood Interior (#2) (unknown)
- Wood Interior (#3) (unknown)
- Woodland Brook (unknown)
- Woodland Scene (unknown)
Reception and legacy
Baker "rapidly ascended to the head of his profession" by the age of 25.[n 2] His landscapes were variously described as "characteristic[ally] American"[n 1] and "true character studies in which varieties of vegetation and the varying influence of light and weather were identified with amazing skill." One critic in 1883 described the black and white work Morning in the Meadows as "brilliant" though perhaps too detailed.
- Turnure, Arthur B (1884). "Notes: Descriptive and Biographic". Art Year Book 1884: American Art. Boston: New England Institute. End of paragraph 2. Retrieved November 29, 2011. "The Hallgarten prizes of three hundred, two hundred and one hundred dollars annually for the best three pictures in oil colors shown in the exhibition were awarded respectively to Mr. C. Y. Turner for his large and important figure subject, The Courtship of Miles Standish, to Mr. Louis Moeller for his excellently painted single figure with accessories, entitled Puzzled, and to Mr. William Bliss Baker for his characteristic American landscape, A Woodland Brook."
- Turnure. Paragraph 7. "William Bliss Baker.—One of the prize winners in the National Academy exhibition of 1884, Mr. Baker, has been selected as a worthy exponent of our best landscape art. Though a young man, not yet twenty-five years of age, he has already acquired an enviable reputation in the art world. Born November 27th, 1859, at New York he began his course of study in the National Academy Schools in 1876 and first exhibited at the Academy in 1879. Since then he has had work in the exhibitions of Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Louisville, the Society of American Artists, the Water Color Society and the Salmagundi Club. His principal pictures are Woodland Brook, In the old Pasture, Silence, Woodland Study, Green Pasture—July, April Sunshine, November Gray, April Snow, Brook in Spring."
- Regarding his death, some sources state he was in his 27th year (which means he was 26), and others state he was 27 years old. The book Art Year Book 1884: American Art gives his actual birthdate, however, so we know he was 26 when he died just a week shy of his 27th birthday.
- The home/studio built by Baker has had multiple names over the years, including "The Castle", "Smith's Castle", and "The Haunted Castle". See Ye Olde Days by Briaddy.
- Bentley, Edward P. "BAKER, WILLIAM BLISS American 1859 - 1886". Retrieved 2007-04-20.
- Godel, Howard; Baumgartner, Katherine W.; Quick, Thomas, eds. (2005). An Alluring Path III. New York, New York, USA: Godel & Co. Fine Art. pp. 34–35. LCCN 2003110778.
- "Died". The New York Times. November 22, 1886. p. 5. "BAKER.—At Hoosic Falls, N.Y., Nov. 20, in the 27th year of his age, William Bliss Baker, artist, late of this city, son of Col. B.F. Baker. Funeral at St. Mark's Church, Hoosic Falls, Tuesday, 23rd inst., at 12:30."
- Jones, Agnes Halsey (1968). "Introduction—The Hudson River School". Hudson River School. Geneseo, New York, USA: W. F. Humphrey Press. pp. 1–9.
- Clarke, Thomas Benedict (1891). Catalogue of the Thomas B. Clarke collection of American pictures: exhibition October 15 to November 28, 1891. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. p. 8.
- Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1886. New York, New York, USA: D. Appleton and Company. 1887. p. 664.
- "Selling works of art: Pictures of Baker, Sprague's collection, and the Baker Statues.". The New York Times. 1887-03-18. p. 5. "...William Bliss Baker, the lately deceased landscape painter, whose death by accident at the early age of 27 deprived America of one of its most promising artists..."
- American Ancestry: Giving the Name and Descent, in the Male Line, of Americans Whose Ancestors Settled in the United States Previous to the Declaration of Independence, A. D. 1776. Albany, New York, USA: Joel Munsell's Sons. 1891. pp. 93–94.
- Briaddy, Katherine Q. (1974). "The Railroads". Ye Olde Days: A History of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. Ballston Spa, New York: Journal Press. pp. 89–92.
- "Monthly Record of American Art". The Magazine of Art: xxii. "He was a pupil of the New York National Academy of Design, where he took the Elliott prize in 1879, and in 1885 he won the Hallgarten prize with his landscape, 'The Woodland Brook.'"
- "Register of Historic Places (page 2)". Town of Clifton Park - Historic Preservation Commission. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved June 4, 2011. Note: Listed as #17.
- "Monthly Record of American Art". The Magazine of Art (London, Paris, New York, and Melbourne: Cassell and Company, Limited): xxiv. 1887. "The William Bliss Baker collection was sold, March 17th. "Morning After the Snow" brought $5,000; "Snow Scene," $1,100; "Solitude," sold for $1,100; "Under the Appletree," $760; and the last work of the artist, "Meadow Brook," sold for $614."
- "Art Notes". The Art Review 1 (2): 19. December 1886.
- "Works of Art: fallen monarchs". Brigham Young University Museum of Art. Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- "A Pleasant Day At Lake George". Adirondack Museum. Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- Friedman, S. Morgan. "The Inflation Calculator". Retrieved April 20, 2007.
- "Collections Search: Henry Art". University of Washington. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
- Sweeney, J. Gray (1982). American painting at the Tweed Museum of Art and Glensheen, the University of Minnesota, Duluth. p. 100.
- Clarke, Thomas B. (1899). Catalogue of the Private Art Collection of Thomas B. Clarke. New York, New York, USA: American Art Association. p. 18.
- Coffin, William A. (1899). "Introduction". Catalogue of the Private Art Collection of Thomas B. Clarke. New York, New York, USA: American Art Association. p. 10.
- E. R. (December 8, 1883). "Two Art Exhibitions in New York". The American: A National Weekly Journal of Politics, Literature, Science, Art and Finance (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The American Company, Limited) VII (174). p.9 third paragraph near the end. "Mr. William Bliss Baker's "Morning in the Meadows" is a brilliant landscape, but with a little more elaboration of detail than is appropriate to black-and-white work."
- William Bliss Baker at American Art Gallery
- Media related to William Bliss Baker at Wikimedia Commons