Lamar G. Baker Biography

Lamar G. Baker

American

1908-1994

Biography

Lamar Baker, painter, printmaker, and graphic artist, was born in 1908 in Atlanta, Georgia. He studied at Columbus' High Institute of Art and at the University of Georgia under Ben Shute, and at the Castle Studio, also in Georgia. In 1935 he moved to New York to attend the Art Students League, where he studied printmaking under Kenneth Hayes Miller, Rico Le Brun, and Harry Sternberg. Sternberg's social realist style was of great influence to Baker, as was the work of Thomas Hart Benton, Louis Lozowick, and John McCrady. During this time he created several lithographic series dealing with a range of sociopolitical issues, his most well-known of which was the Cotton Series, which examined not only with the inherent racism of the industry, but the back-door politics and anti-union sentiments that affected black, white, male and female workers alike.

In 1942, Baker won a Julius Rosenwald Fund fellowship that enabled him to travel through Mississippi and Louisiana. En route he was inspired to create a series of five paintings around the theme of African American spiritual songs, which remain among his most recognized work and is housed in the Columbus Museum in Georgia. He worked for RKO Pictures in New York as a commercial artist until 1951, when he returned to Georgia, settling near Columbus with his new wife, where he would teach art classes and work for the Litho-Krome Company until 1977.

Baker was considered a Regionalist, his work focusing on the people and places where he grew up, even as he worked and lived in other states. With his love of his homeland came a critique that remained a major tenet of his oeuvre. According to the Columbus Museum, to whom Baker bequeathed around half of his work at the end of his career, Baker stands out in the history of modern American art in that he was a white male who "frequently focused his work on the social issues of racial injustice and violence during the 1940s. Leading graphic arts historian and curator Carl Zigrosser described him as 'one of the first native artists to reckon with the problems of the new South.' His later work often investigated issues of mortality."

Baker died in Talbotton, Georgia, in 1994.

Exhibited: "America Today," American Artists Congress, 1936; annual print exhs., Phila. Art Alliance, 1937-39; Weyhe Gal., 1938 (group), 1945 (solo); High Mus. A., 1939 (solo), 1944 (Exh. of Contemporary American Painting); NAD, 1940, 1941, 1943; "Survey of Contemporary Printmaking in the USA," Carnegie Inst., 1941; Gresham Gal., New Orleans, 1941 (solo); "AV: An Exh. of Contemporary American Art," MMA, 1942-43; "Between Two Wars: Prints by American Artists, 1914-41," WMAA, 1942; annual print show, Albright-Knox Art Gal., Buffalo, NY, 1943; annual print exh. PAFA, 1944; Univ. Georgia, 1951 (solo); Castle Gal., Atlanta, 1954 (solo). Awards: Julius Rosenwald F., 1942. "

Member: ASL (life member)

Work: The Columbus (Ga.) Mus. has the largest collection of his paintings and prints, as well as student work and sketchbooks, having received a major bequest of the artist, 1994. Other collections: PMA; NYPL; ASL; Mobile (Ga.) Mus. Art; Albany (Ga.) Mus. Art; NMAA; High Mus. Art, Atlanta; Prints and Photographs Div., LOC; WMAA; NAD.

 Much of our information on Baker was gathered from the Columbus Museum.