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 William Charles Baker  (1872 - 1958)

About: William Charles Baker
 

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: landscape, waterscape

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Snow, Cayuga Heights, NY
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted by Jackie Heinl:
 
William Charles Baker came to Cornell University as a student in 1894, and, after graduation in 1898, spent most of the next sixty-four years painting in Ithaca and teaching at Cornell.

As an undergraduate at Cornell his drawing ability was so outstanding in biological courses that various professors called upon him for illustrations for their publications.  He began his career by teaching drawing in Sibley College (Engineering) for four years.  It was during this period that he decided to make a career in art. 

At the request of Liberty Hyde Bailey, he returned to Cornell in 1905 to do illustrations for Dr Bailey's Cyclopedia of Agriculture and Cyclopedia of Horticulture.  In 1907 he was appointed assistant professor of drawing in the College of Agriculture by Bailey, who considered drawing to be an indispensable aid to teaching accuracy to observation in the biological sciences.  In 1913 he was advanced to a professorship until he became emeritus in 1938.
 
Professor Baker was not only an expert illustrator, skilled in the graphic arts and photography but was a painter of note.  Though he exhibited widely, he would not join national societies.  He did not want a dealer handling his works, in fact, most painting were gifts from the artist.  He captured the Finger Lakes countryside on canvas in all its seasonal changes and atmospheric qualities in a way that causes countless others to see it with new appreciation.  His paintings have been exhibited in Paris, and many American cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Auburn, Buffalo, and of course, many times in Ithaca.  His illustrations appeared in the various publications listed below:
 
Cyclopedia of Agriculture: L.H. Bailey, 1900, 1914; pen-and-ink.
Cyclopedia of Horticulture:  L.H. Bailey, 1900, et seq.; pen-and-ink.
New York State College of Agriculture Bulletins.
Country Life in America: illustrations; pen-and-ink
Honne: Spirit of the Chehalis: K. V. W. Palmer; pen-and-ink illustrations
Ways of the Six Footed: A.B. Comstock, photographs
Murals in the main stairway of Robert Hall, College of Agriculture, 1914.
 
Source:
Herbert Johnson Museum at Cornell University
 
Other sources indicate that he was survived by a daughter, Mrs. John W. Wells, who inherited his studio and kept his collection together until the 1980s.  With the assistance of Mr. Richard Baron, Appraiser, of David W. Mapes, Inc., many of the paintings were then placed in area art museums including the Herbert Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca.


Biography from The History Center in Tompkins County:
Born on November 17, 1872, in Buffalo, NY, William Charles Baker believed that appreciation of beauty was not instinctive, but something that could be taught.

He was an enthusiastic artist and teacher who took great pleasure in introducing the beauty he saw in nature to others. He loved to paint the Finger Lakes countryside in western New York State. "We live in a beautiful world," Baker once said, "and those who live in the Finger Lakes region dwell in one of the finest parts of this beautiful world."

His paintings captured the area's seasonal changes and atmospheric qualities. Baker's work was exhibited in Paris, New York, Philadelphia, and Buffalo, as well as in his adult hometown of Ithaca, New York.

Graduating from Cornell University in 1898, Baker stayed on to teach drawing for several years. In 1904 he traveled to Paris where he studied with J.P. Laurens at the Academie Julian. Returning to Ithaca, Baker became professor of drawing in the College of Agriculture at Cornell, a position he held until retiring in 1938.

Irene Castle, a silent screen film star living in Ithaca, purchased a number of Baker's paintings. Some of his works include "Cayuga Lake Valley from Cayuga Heights: Winter" from the 1920s, "Creek In Cayuga Heights Area" from the 1930s, and "Apple Blossoms Near Spencer" from the 1950s.

Baker died on February 20, 1958 at the age of 85.

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