Walter Emerson Baum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Walter Emerson Baum (December 14, 1884 – July 12, 1956) was an American artist and educator active in the Bucks and Lehigh County areas of Pennsylvania in the United States. In addition to being a prolific painter, Baum was also responsible for the founding of the Baum School of Art and the Allentown Art Museum.


Early life and training[edit]

Born in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, Baum was one of the few Pennsylvania impressionist artists actually born in Bucks County. He studied with William B. T. Trego from 1904–1909, taking lessons at Trego's home in North Wales, Pennsylvania - about 15 miles south of Sellersville. Baum attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1905 and 1906, studying with Thomas Pollock Anshutz, Hugh H. Breckenridge, William Merritt Chase and Cecilia Beaux.

Faced with the responsibilities of a wife and four children, Marian, Ruth, Robert and Edgar, Baum took odd jobs to support his family. He worked in the family's barbershop, and worked as a photographer for The Poultry Item, a magazine which focused on chickens, ducks and geese. He also wrote for the local newspaper, the Sellersville Herald, and was made an editor in 1921 (he wrote columns for the paper until 1942). As his paintings became better known, he taught art classes at his home in Sellersville and at the local high school.

Baum as an educator[edit]

Baum was an active art instructor in the Allentown area from 1926 to 1956. Notable students of Baum include John E. Berninger, Karl Buesgen, Joseph Gehringer, Walter Mattern, and Melville Stark. "The Baum Circle" refers to the artists either taught by, associated with, or directly influenced by Baum. In October 2006, the David E. Rodale Gallery at the Baum School of Art held an exhibition celebrating the work of this group.

Baum as a writer and illustrator[edit]

Baum worked as a columnist for the Sellersville Herald. In 1921, he was promoted to editor of the paper, where he worked until 1942. At the Herald, Baum wrote a weekly column in which he discussed the history, culture and ideals of his home town.

In 1938, Baum wrote Two Hundred Years (published by the Sellersville Herald, Sellersville Pennsylvania), a book documenting the history of the Pennsylvania Germans in the Sellersville area. Like his contemporaries N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell, whose works graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post for years, Baum also became involved in illustration. His first cover appeared in Curtis Publishing Company's Country Gentleman magazine in January 1931. In 1948, Baum provided illustrations and an introductory essay for the Selected Short Stories of Thomas Hardy (published by Rodale Press, Allentown Pennsylvania).

Baum also worked as an art critic and reviewer for the Philadelphia Evening and Sunday Bulletin, a position in which, as an artist himself, he was able to bring a unique perspective that became popular with readers. In this role, he was also able to promote local art and artists. During the Great Depression, a period during which artists found it extremely difficult to find work, his column was important in keeping the vibrant Philadelphia art community active and informed.

The Allentown Art Museum[edit]

The "Allentown Art Gallery" was organized by Baum and opened in Allentown's Hunsicker School on March 17, 1934. With seventy canvases by local Pennsylvania impressionist artists on display, the gallery attracted major attention from the local and regional art communities. During the Great Depression, Baum was able to grow the collection through the Public Works of Art Project and through acquisitions and gifts. In June 1936, the City of Allentown granted the museum a permanent home in a Federal-style house located in the Rose Garden in Allentown's Cedar Park. The museum's first curator was local artist John E. Berninger, a student of Baum's, who lived with his wife on the museum's second floor.

The Bucks County Traveling Art Gallery[edit]

In 1949, Walter Emerson Baum and Dr. Charles H. Boehm, Bucks County Superintendent of Schools, established the Bucks County Traveling Art Gallery, a program whose goal was to expose school children of Bucks County to the artwork of the New Hope School and the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement. The county-wide program was formally established by Boehm after positive feedback was received from parents and teachers when a Baum painting was purchased to celebrate the retirement of one of Baum's grammar school teachers.[1]

The program was officially unveiled in a ceremony at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Notable Bucks County residents including Pearl S. Buck took part, as did many of the artists whose paintings were purchased for the gallery.[1]

The collection, which now includes over 350 pieces of art, has visited all of the thirteen school districts in the county, and is managed by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit and maintained by the James A. Michener Art Museum. Artists represented in the collection include Baum, Walter Elmer Schofield, Sarah Blakeslee, Harry Leith-Ross and Kenneth Nunamaker.[2]

The "Bucks County Intermediate Unit Collection" is one of the most important collections of Pennsylvania Impressionist artwork outside of the Lenfest collection of the Michener Art Museum. It was the Bucks County Traveling Art Gallery that served as the impetus (albeit it took almost forty more years to come to fruition) for the establishment of a museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania dedicated to the work of local artists.[1]

Family life[edit]

Edgar Schofield Baum (1916–2006) was Walter Emerson Baum's eldest son. Edgar worked in a wide variety of media, including oil and acrylic painting, dyes, sculpture, and writing (specifically poetry and wit). He published a book of his writings, entitled Jest and Ernest: A Collection of Original Aphorisms and As-Isms.

Edgar attended the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, and served as a combat medical officer in the European Theatre during World War II. At the end of the war, he returned to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and established a family practice. For over 40 years, his practice was located at 1624 Walnut Street, in the city's West Park neighborhood. He also served as a trustee of the Baum School of Art

In October 2006, the David E. Rodale Gallery at the Baum School of Art held an exhibition celebrating the work of the Baum Circle. A memorial exhibition, celebrating the life and work of Baum, was held at the Baum School during June 2007.


Major exhibitions[edit]


  • Walter E. Baum, A.N.A., Exhibition in Retrospect, 1923–1953, Playhouse Galleries, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1953
  • Retrospective show, Forrest Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1954


  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914–1916,1918–1920, 1922, 1924–1926,1928–1954
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1916, 1926, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1951
  • National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1926, 1928, 1933, 1936, 1938, 1941–1950
  • Audubon Artists, New York, New York, 1953
  • Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
  • Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York
  • Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan
  • Fort Worth Museum of Art, Fort Worth, Texas
  • Phillips Mill Community Association, New Hope, Pennsylvania, annual art exhibitions
  • Philadelphia Art Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Mississippi
  • The Pennsylvania School of Landscape Painting: An Original American Impressionism, traveling exhibition, Allentown Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Westmoreland County Museum, Brandywine River Museum, 1984–85
  • Kemerer Museum, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1984 The Pennsylvania Impressionists: Painters of the New Hope School, James A. Michener Arts Center, 1990
  • The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania Impressionism, James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 2001 (Permanent)
  • Objects of Desire: Treasures from Private Collections, James A. Michener Art Museum, New Hope, Pennsylvania, 2005–2006

Colleagues and affiliations[edit]

  • American Artists Professional League
  • American Watercolor Society
  • Allentown-Bethlehem Art Alliance
  • Buck Hill Arts Association
  • Germantown Art League
  • Lehigh Art Alliance
  • National Academy of Design, Associate Member 1945
  • Associate Member, National Academy of Design Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1939
  • Philadelphia Art Alliance
  • Philadelphia Sketch Club
  • Philadelphia Watercolor Club

Teaching and professional appointments[edit]


  • Bronze Medal, American Artist's Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1918
  • Jennie Sesnan Gold Medal, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1925
  • Prize, Springville, Utah, 1932
  • Prize, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1939
  • Prize, American Society of Miniature Painters, New York, New York, 1943
  • Medal, Philadelphia Watercolor Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1944
  • Prize, American Watercolor Society, 1945
  • Prize, Buck Hill Art Association, Pennsylvania, 1945
  • Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary), Lehigh University, 1946
  • M. Grumbacher Purchase Prize for Casein, Audubon Artists, 1953
  • Medal of Honor, National Arts Club, 1953
  • Gold Medal Award, daVinci Alliance, Philadelphia, 1956 (awarded posthumously)

Major collections[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Baum, Walter Emerson (1949). The Kline-Baum Art School, 1949 Annual Report. The Kline-Baum Art School. p. 12.
  2. ^ History of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit Collection

Further reading[edit]

Folk, Thomas. The Pennsylvania Impressionists, with a foreword by James A. Michener (Doylestown and London: James Michener Museum and Associated University Presses, 1997).

  • Hutson-Saxton, Martha Young (1996). Walter Emerson Baum, 1884-1956: Pennsylvania artist and founder of the Baum School of Art and Allentown Art Museum. s.l.: The Author. ASIN B001UT4XL2.
  • Peterson, Brian H. (Editor) (2002). Pennsylvania Impressionism. Philadelphia: James A. Michener Art Museum and University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-3700-5.

External links[edit]