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Lamar BAKER

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 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 are 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."

His work was included in America Today, American Artists Congress, 1936; annual print exhibitions, Philadelphia Art Alliance, 1937-39; Weyhe Gallery, 1938 (group), 1945 (solo); High Museum of Art, 1939 (solo), Contemporary American Painting, 1944; National Academy of Design, 1940, 1941, 1943; Survey of Contemporary Printmaking in the USA, Carnegie Institute, 1941; Gresham Gallery, New Orleans, 1941 (solo); Contemporary American Art, Museum of Modern Art, 1942-43; Between Two Wars: Prints by American Artists, 1914-41, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1942; annual print show, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 1943; annual print exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1944; the University of Georgia, 1951 (solo); Castle Gallery, Atlanta, 1954 (solo). He was awarded the Julius Rosenwald Fund Fellowship in 1942 and was a life member of the Art Students League.

Lamar Baker is represented in the collections of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; the Columbus Museum, Georgia; the Mobile Museum of Art, Alabama; the National Academy of Design, the New York Public Library, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Baker died in Talbotton, Georgia in 1994.

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

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