George Augustus Baker, Jr.

(19 March 1821 - 2 April 1880)

Baker was trained to paint miniatures by his father. Within the first year after commencing his professional career at the age of sixteen, he had executed over 140 miniatures. He began exhibiting his miniatures in the National Academy of Design's annual exhibitions in 1838. In 1841, enrolled in its school, passing that and the following school year studying in the antique class, perhaps in a move to enlarge the scale and range of his capabilities. In 1844, he traveled to Europe where he spent considerable time in Italy studying the works of the old masters. Upon returning in 1846, Baker restablished himself in New York, and soon proved as facile in full scale portraiture as he had in miniature painting. Although he frequently executed genre paintings, his reputation as a portraitist continued to grow throughout the mid-nineteenth century; frequently he had a waiting list of sitters. Around 1866, Baker purchased a residence in Darien, Connecticut, but maintained a studio in New York throughout his career. Baker was notably active in Academy affairs: he was repeatedly elected to the Council, serving 1852-54, 1859-61, 1862-66, and finally a one-year term 1868-69; from 1863 to 1864, he was on the Fellowship Fund Committee, which pursued financial donations to sustain the Academy's operations; and from 1867 to 1869, he was a visitor to the Academy's school. His portraits were exhibited consisently in Academy annual exhibitions up to the year before his death. Baker's sustained success as a portraitist was explained in The Art Journal: "The late Mr. George A. Baker, of the National Academy of Design, was one of the most popular portrait painters of his time. He never took rank with [Charles Loring] Elliott or [William] Page, and probably did not claim such fellowship, but he was perhaps at the head of that group who pleased sitters not by artistic arrangement of drapery and other factitious devices but by 'keying up,' so to speak, whatever attractiveness the face and character to be painted might originally possess".

Burial: Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum, Manhattan, New York County, New York, USA


Baker, George A., N. A., was Born in New York, 1821. His first instruction in drawing was from his father, an artist of some merit. Studying later at the National Academy, becoming a member of the Academy in 1851. His earlier works were miniatures upon ivory. He devoted himself particularly to portrait-painting, his favorite subjects being Ladies and children. His professional life was spent in his native city. He traveled to Europe in 1844, studying and working for two years.

His command for high prices, and his particular branch of art was without a rival in America. Among his ideal works; "Wild-Flowers", and "Children of the Roberts"; and "Faith" and "The May" in the Walters Collection of Baltimore. His portraits, generally of private individuals, are in private collections throughout the country.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century ∓ Their Works, Clara Erskine Clement & Laurence Hutton. Vol I., 1879.

George A. Baker is highly esteemed for his portraiture of women and children; there is often a clear and vivid flesh-tint, a grace of expression, and a beautiful refinement in his portraits which render them at once attra6live and authentic. His studio in New York is rarely without some gem of color and expression. Originally devoted to miniature-painting, much of the delicacy and fidelity of his pencil is owing to the high finish and exadlitude acquired in that kind of limning. His full-length of L. M. Hoffman is in the Mercantile Library, New York; a portrait of a child of A. M. Cozzens, in the possession of that gentleman, is a work of rare beauty and worth, and was selected for the Paris Exhibition of 1867. There are three characteristic works of Baker in the collection of Marshall O. Roberts: -- "Love at First Sight," "Wild Flowers," and "Children in the Woods." His latest achievements are thus justly recorded by a recent Academy critic: ''George Baker has no large pictures which add to his established reputation, but he has never painted a small portrait more charming, in any artistic sense, than one of a beautiful young girl in a gipsy hat, which he calls 'Coming from the Woods.' Here he attains the highest triumph of the portrait-painter. He makes a likeness which cannot fail to be eminently individual, and yet at the same time avoids all appearance of being mainly intended as a portrait, by the perfect unconciousness of its manner and the artistic arrangement of its surroundings. No one who visits our exhibition can have escaped the conclusion that to make a fine portrait and a fine picture on the same canvas is the most difficult task in the world. The young ladies who get painted among out-door accessories almost universally seem to have selected their clump of trees after protracted consultation with the landscape-gardener, and to have propounded to Madame Demarest the subsequent problem: Given three maples, a pear-tree, and a convolvulus, what style would look prettiest for my new tarletan? George Baker's lovely little picture is the antipodes of this kind. of thing. The young maid has come 'from the woods' without suspicion that a portrait-painter lurks in ambush on the hither edge, and Baker seems to have caught her sweet face quite without her knowing it, just as it gladdened to see somebody coming to meet her whom she loved. There is another portrait of one of our loveliest women -- delicate in expression and tender in flesh-tones as Baker's best work."

Baker is a native of New York, and most of his portraits are there; many of his works are in the possession of G. M. Vanderbilt, Esq.

Book of the American Artist Life, by Henry T. Tuckerman, 1867.

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