Walter Emerson Baum Oil Painting, ca. 1940
It was purchased by my grandmother in the late '40s when my parents were settling in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My grandmother purchased it for their first home, and it has been in our homes ever since above the mantel in the living room.
And the artist is Walter Emerson Baum.
Who, for many years, taught in Allentown; in fact, created his own art school there, and was very involved in the museum as well. It's a little hard with Baums to determine the exact date, but my thought would be this is probably mature period, so maybe '30s, '40s, around about then. Do you know much about Walter Baum?
I know that he is thought of as one of the members of the Pennsylvania Impressionist group. From the bit of research I've done, I think he was considered a... like a second-tier artist. And I know that he was considered prolific, which I thought probably isn't necessarily a good sign for the value of the painting.
Well, you've said a couple of interesting things there. Maybe a little unkind to say he's a "second-tier" one, but there is some truth to that. You think of the main artists, such as Edward Redfield and Daniel Garber. Daniel Garber, in fact, taught Baum at the Pennsylvania Academy. The other thing you mentioned is this whole aspect of him being prolific. Of all the artists of that school, he is definitely the most prolific, no question. Some people have said that he produced over 2,000 works. I know there's at least 700 records of auction, so it's hard to know exactly how many were done. I recall being told a story of Baum's wife sending him out each day saying, "We need more money for the family. Out you go, do some more paintings," and he would do that. And would go off and maybe paint somebody's house out in the country, and then approach them and say, "Would you like to buy the painting I've done of the house?"
He worked in two different styles-- he did cityscapes and he did rural village scenes like this. And the snow scenes like this tend to be the most popular ones. But this whole notion of being prolific is a problem, because people know that there's always going to be another one around the corner if they don't buy that one. It's not like Garber or Redfield, who would even destroy paintings if he wasn't happy with the way they came out. Baum really did produce a lot of work, and it's variable quality. In fact, this is the second one that I saw today, and I suspect I may well see other ones because he is a local artist. But I singled this one out because I think it is a very nice example, and it does have all the things that you want to see in a Walter Baum. It's decent size, the figures in it there shoveling the snow, it's got a sleigh ride here, we've got a nice, clear signature down here-- "W.E. Baum," as he signed it. And there's lots of energy in the paint. It seems to be in pretty good order, actually, nice condition. We know from what's written on the back that it was bought originally for $200. $200. Well, I guess the good news is that the market has gone up from then. I would say, at auction, in the current market, probably of the order of $7,000 to $10,000.
Oh, that's wonderful.
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