BAKER, WILLIAM BLISS American 1859 - 1886
by Edward P. Bentley

William Bliss Baker, a landscape painter of masterful execution, was born in New York City in 1859 and spent his childhood in the village of Ballston Spa. His talent for art became apparent at an early age. Beginning regular art studies at the National Academy of Design at the age of seventeen, Baker won the Elliott prize for drawing in 1879. He is also noted as having studied under M.F.H. de Haas and with the panoramic landscape artist Albert Bierstadt.

Baker maintained a studio in up-state New York above Albany and began exhibiting yearly at the National Academy in 1881. Although not yet twenty-five, he entered the forefront of landscape painting in 1885 when he won the Hallgarten prize. The artist sought to express Nature in his own unique, precise and "truthful" style reminiscent of the earlier Hudson River School. He also made notable contributions in black and white oils - of which "The Brook," here illustrated, was undoubtedly one - to the yearly Salmagundi Club Exhibitions. This New York artist's group, of which Baker was a member, was organized in 1871 and existed as a social group for artistic appreciation.

"The Brook" Black and white oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Haussner Family Limited Partnership, Haussner Restaurant, Baltimore, Maryland.

Baker's untimely death at the early age of twenty seven was caused by a spinal injury incurred while ice skating. The New York Evening Post stated in his obituary: "The young artist was animated from his earliest years, and this, aided by his great industry and energy, was among the chief elements of his success in the line of art he had chosen."

"Fallen Monarchs," which could be considered his masterpiece, was painted in 1886 and is in the collection of the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Prove, Utah.

Edward P. Bentley, of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, enjoys researching early American Art and is an accomplished photographer.

ŠThe Fine Arts Trader 2009