George Oscar Baker 1882–1948
Born in Strother, Missouri, George Oscar Baker trained for a year at the Kansas City Art Institute and worked as a newspaper illustrator and comic artist in Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; and Baltimore. By 1907 he was in Paris, where he enrolled in the Académie Julian; he also studied at the Académie Colarossi, under American expatriate painter Richard Emil Miller. While living and showing his work in Paris, Baker exhibited paintings in Milwaukee and in the Art Institute of Chicago’s annual exhibitions of American art in 1911 and 1912. He returned to the U.S. in 1912 and lived in New York City, showing his work in the 1913 National Academy of Design annual exhibition. The few extant examples of his painting demonstrate the strong influence of Miller as well as Baker’s gifts for fashionable portraiture and genre painting.
Baker soon abandoned fine art for a career as an illustrator. Moving to Chicago around 1918, he worked as a freelance commercial artist and then formed a partnership with a colleague in the field. Eventually he became an art director and executive in several Chicago advertising firms, notably Lord and Thomas. Perhaps to work in that company’s office in New York, he relocated there in the 1920s. In the early 1930s, Baker may have fallen victim to the widespread unemployment of the Great Depression, for he was again working independently in 1933. He also founded and ran two clearing-houses for freelance advertising artists. In 1947, ill health forced Baker to retire to Florida, where he died at age sixty-six, leaving scant trace of his brief career as a fine artist.
Wendy Greenhouse, PhD