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Walter E. Baum

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Gallery Database:

Walter Emerson Baum (1884-1956). "Winter Brook," ca. 1936, oil on canvas board, 16 x 20, signed. Repro frame 23 x 27. 


Curator's Comment:

Baum was prolific, producing more than 2,000 works in oil, tempera, watercolor and pastel, which are generally divided into two distinct groups; landscapes of Delaware River Valley set in Bucks and Berks counties, all illustrating woodlands, creeks and the countryside. Secondly he painted cityscapes of the surrounding small antiquated-industrial towns, especially Manayunk, with detailed architecture, intense pure color and objects outlined in bright black. One of the only Pennsylvania Impressionists to be born in historic Bucks County, Baum seemed to thrive on an intimate personal relationship with his chosen landscape. He often painted the area's seasonal changes working en plein air, occasionally painting snowstorms during the storm itself. "My father strapped an easel to his car's fender, a palette to his door and painted away while my mother relaxed in the backseat, reading novels," said Baum's son. Baum is best known for his mature compositions, particularly those depicting small rural landscapes and farmsteads that were executed in the 1920s and 1930s. Clearly his townscapes set in Manayunk, the streets of Allentown and Tamaqua, all in Pennsylvania, are less attractive, with a theme that suggests an almost human burlesque of the natural environment. By the 1940s, Baum abandoned oil paint and started to experiment with the media of tempera and casein with less successful results. We are especially pleased to offer Baum's Winter Brook (painted near Boyertown) because it is one of the most delicate and subtle of his works and a painting that can be viewed for a very long time. The rushing brook, alive in the depths of winter, seems to flow strongly and with a rushing noise that can almost be heard in the silence of the snow and veiled trees with reedy branches and the sleeping farm houses in the rear. This is another masterpiece of winter art that tells us that there is life in the depths of its stillness.


Self-Portrait, ca. 1940

Mill at Sellersville brought $98,000

Walter Emerson Baum was born in Sellersville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His entire life was spent in Sellersville, and he had a long and diverse career as a  painter, museum director, teacher and critic. Baum received his initial training in 1904 from William Trego, a painter of military scenes. He entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts six years later, in 1910, and studied with Thomas Eakin's colleague, Thomas Anshutz, who was a major influence on all the Pennsylvanians, including Redfield, Schofield, Garber, and Robert Henri. Baum was awarded over thirty prizes and awards from 1918 to 1957, topped by the Sesnan gold medal from PAFA in 1925. In addition to painting, Baum co-founded and supported the Lehigh Art Alliance in the 1930s. He also served as Director at the Allentown Museum of Art and headed the Baum School of Art. He wrote over 500 art reviews for the "Philadelphia Evening Bulletin" and continued to exhibit work at PAFA annually from 1914-1954. Much of his  work from 1940 on was impacted by the War, and particulalrly so because Baum (like Schofield), a staunch anti-Nazi, had written a book on his own origins and the immigrant heritage of Bucks County. He is often considered the "Father of Art in the Lehigh Valley." His works are included in major collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Toledo Art Museum, PAFA, the National Academy of Design, the Michener Art Museum, and the Allentown Art Museum.  After Baum's death in 1956, Philip and Muriel Berman acquired roughly 1,500 paintings by various Pennsylvania artists from Flora Baum, the artist's wife. Baum's work of the early 1950s was included, and this trove was left to the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College, which maintains the largest institutional collection of Baum's work.

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