William Bliss Baker

William Bliss Baker

William Bliss Baker
Fallen Monarchs by Baker.
Born November 27, 1859
New York City
Died November 20, 1886(1886-11-20) (aged 26)
Hoosick Falls, New York
Nationality USA
Education M.F.H. de Haas
Albert Bierstadt[1]
Known for Painting
Notable work Fallen Monarchs
Morning After the Snow
Movement Realism
Awards Elliott Prize for Drawing (1879)
Hallgarten Prize (1885)[n 1][1][2]

William Bliss Baker (November 27, 1859[n 2] – November 20, 1886)[1][3] was an award-winning American artist[2] who began painting just as the Hudson River school was winding down.[4] Baker began his studies in 1876 at the National Academy of Design, where he studied with Bierstadt and de Haas.[2][5] He later maintained studios in Clifton Park, New York, and New York City, where he painted in oils and watercolors. He completed more than 130 paintings, including several works in black and white.[6]

Baker was just beginning to hit his stride as a landscape painter[7] when he died at his father's house at Hoosick Falls, New York, at the age of 26.[n 3] The New York Times said that his death "deprived America of one of its most promising artists."[7]


  • Biography 1
  • Works 2
    • Black and white 2.1
    • Color 2.2
  • Reception and legacy 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Baker was born November 27, 1859, in New York City, the son of Yale alum Benjamin Franklin Baker (b. 1834) and Harriette Luisa Bayeux (married 1857). Harriette was descended from well-to-do Huguenots who moved from France to New York before the American Revolutionary War. Benjamin's father was Ellis Baker (1793-1873), director of the Albany City Bank, Albany Mutual Insurance Company, and People's Line Steamboats, as well as founder of Albany Rural Cemetery and Albany Hospital. He also operated stagecoach lines from Albany to Boston as well as north and west of Albany.[8][9]

Benjamin served during the American Civil War as a colonel in the 43rd Regiment of the New York State Volunteers. Later, he commanded the Light Division of Sixth Corps (part of the Army of the Potomac) as a Brevet Brigadier General. He was noted for his bravery during the charge at Marye's Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg. After the war, he joined the Loyal Legion, then served as a member of the New York State Assembly from 1880 to 1882.[8]

William's best-known brother was Captain Guy Ellis Baker (b. 1858), who married Louisa Irene Palma Di Cesnola,[9] daughter of

  • William Bliss Baker at American Art Gallery
  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

External links

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bentley, Edward P. "BAKER, WILLIAM BLISS American 1859 - 1886". Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Godel, Howard; Baumgartner, Katherine W.; Quick, Thomas, eds. (2005). An Alluring Path III.  
  3. ^ a b "Died".  
  4. ^ a b Jones, Agnes Halsey (1968). "Introduction—The Hudson River School". Hudson River School.  
  5. ^ a b c d e Clarke, Thomas Benedict (1891). Catalogue of the Thomas B. Clarke collection of American pictures: exhibition October 15 to November 28, 1891.  
  6. ^ Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1886.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Selling works of art: Pictures of Baker, Sprague's collection, and the Baker Statues.".  
  8. ^ a b c d e American Ancestry: Giving the Name and Descent, in the Male Line, of Americans Whose Ancestors Settled in the United States Previous to the Declaration of Independence, A. D. 1776.  
  9. ^ a b c d e Briaddy, Katherine Q. (1974). "The Railroads". Ye Olde Days: A History of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.  
  10. ^ "Monthly Record of American Art". The Magazine of Art: xxii. "He was a pupil of the New York National Academy of Design, where he took the Elliott prize in 1879, and in 1885 he won the Hallgarten prize with his landscape, 'The Woodland Brook.'"
  11. ^ "Register of Historic Places (page 2)". Town of Clifton Park - Historic Preservation Commission. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved June 4, 2011.  Note: Listed as #17.
  12. ^ a b "Monthly Record of American Art". The Magazine of Art (London, Paris, New York, and Melbourne: Cassell and Company, Limited): xxiv. 1887. The William Bliss Baker collection was sold, March 17th. "Morning After the Snow" brought $5,000; "Snow Scene," $1,100; "Solitude," sold for $1,100; "Under the Appletree," $760; and the last work of the artist, "Meadow Brook," sold for $614. 
  13. ^ "Art Notes".  
  14. ^ "Works of Art: fallen monarchs". Brigham Young University Museum of Art. Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  15. ^ "A Pleasant Day At Lake George". Adirondack Museum. Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Friedman, S. Morgan. "The Inflation Calculator". Retrieved April 20, 2007. 
  17. ^ "Collections Search: Henry Art".  
  18. ^ Sweeney, J. Gray (1982). American painting at the Tweed Museum of Art and Glensheen, the University of Minnesota, Duluth. p. 100. 
  19. ^ Clarke, Thomas B. (1899). Catalogue of the Private Art Collection of Thomas B. Clarke.  
  20. ^  
  21. ^ E. R. (December 8, 1883). "Two Art Exhibitions in New York". The American: A National Weekly Journal of Politics, Literature, Science, Art and Finance ( 


  1. ^ a b Turnure, Arthur B (1884). "Notes: Descriptive and Biographic". Art Year Book 1884: American Art.  
  2. ^ a b Turnure. Paragraph 7. "William Bliss Baker.—One of the prize winners in the National Academy exhibition of 1884, Mr. Baker, has been selected as a worthy exponent of our best landscape art. Though a young man, not yet twenty-five years of age, he has already acquired an enviable reputation in the art world. Born November 27th, 1859, at New York he began his course of study in the National Academy Schools in 1876 and first exhibited at the Academy in 1879. Since then he has had work in the exhibitions of Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Louisville, the Society of American Artists, the Water Color Society and the Salmagundi Club. His principal pictures are Woodland Brook, In the old Pasture, Silence, Woodland Study, Green Pasture—July, April Sunshine, November Gray, April Snow, Brook in Spring."
  3. ^ a b Regarding his death, some sources state he was in his 27th year (which means he was 26), and others state he was 27 years old. The book Art Year Book 1884: American Art gives his actual birthdate, however, so we know he was 26 when he died just a week shy of his 27th birthday.
  4. ^ The home/studio built by Baker has had multiple names over the years, including "The Castle", "Smith's Castle", and "The Haunted Castle". See Ye Olde Days by Briaddy.


Regarding his death, the New York Times said it "deprived America of one of its most promising artists."[7]

Baker "rapidly ascended to the head of his profession"[5] by the age of 25.[n 2] His landscapes were variously described as "characteristic[ally] American"[n 1] and "true character studies in which varieties of vegetation and the varying influence of light and weather were identified with amazing skill."[5] One critic in 1883 described the black and white work Morning in the Meadows as "brilliant" though perhaps too detailed.[21]

While Baker is relatively unknown to the general public,[4] he was well known to art critics of the day[20] and was considered "one of the leading landscape painters of America".[8]

Reception and legacy

Title sources: [1][7]

  • Hiding in the Haycocks (1881, housed in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art)
    Hiding in the Haycocks, painted in 1881.
  • Landscape: Grez (ca.1882, housed as part of the Horace C. Henry Collection at the Henry Art Gallery at University of Washington)[17]
    Landscape: Grez, painted ca.1882.
  • A Pleasant Day at Lake George (1883, housed in the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, New York)
  • View of New York Harbor, with Brooklyn Bridge in the Distance (1883)
  • October Morning (1884)
  • First Fall of Snow (1884)
  • First Snow of Winter (1884)
  • Summer Evening (ca.1884)[18]
  • Woodland Brook (ca.1884-1885, housed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montréal)
  • Lake Luzerne (ca.1885)
  • Morning After the Snow (1885, housed in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, St. Bonaventure University)
  • Fallen Monarchs (1886, housed in the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University)
  • Under the Apple-Trees (1886)
  • Meadow Brook (ca.1886, his last completed work)[12]
  • A Cool Retreat (unknown)
  • April Day (unknown)
  • April Snow (unknown)
  • Autumn in Woods (unknown)
  • Autumn Woods (unknown)
  • Bed of a Brook (unknown)
  • Branches of Elm (unknown)
  • Cattle Grazing Near a Stream Through the Pasture (unknown)
  • Church Beyond a Meadow (unknown)
  • Clover Field (unknown)
  • Corn Fields and Pasture (unknown)
  • Dead Leaves (unknown)
  • Dried Up (unknown)
  • Early Autumn (unknown)
  • Edge of the Woods (unknown)
  • Fallen (a study) (unknown)
  • A Forest Glade (unknown)
  • Forest Sunshine (unknown)
  • A Haze (unknown)
  • In the Old Pasture (unknown)
  • June Pastures (unknown)
  • June Sunshine (unknown)
  • Landscape with Cattle (unknown)
  • The Old Orchard (unknown)
  • Orchard in June (unknown)
  • A Quiet Pond, Connecticut (unknown, reviewed in An Alluring Path III)[2]
  • Schoharie Creek (unknown)
  • Second Growth Timber (unknown)
  • Shadows in a Pool (unknown)
  • Shady Pool (unknown)
  • Silence (unknown, 24x30 inches (height x length))[19]
  • Snow Scene (unknown)
  • Solitude (unknown)
  • Spring Pasture (unknown)
  • Still Pool in the Woods (unknown)
  • Study of Snow (unknown)
  • Summer Afternoon (unknown)
  • Sunny Brook (unknown)
  • Sunrise on New York Harbor (unknown)
  • Under the Apple Trees (unknown)
  • Wood Interior (unknown)
  • Wood Interior (#2) (unknown)
  • Wood Interior (#3) (unknown)
  • Woodland Brook (unknown)
  • Woodland Scene (unknown)


  • The Brook (unknown)
  • Dark Forest (unknown)
  • Morning in the Meadows (unknown)

Black and white

Another of his paintings, Morning After the Snow, sold for $5000 in 1887[7] (the equivalent of about $109,000 in 2006 dollars).[16] Morning and an additional 129 of his paintings sold at that auction for a combined total of nearly $15,000[7] (almost $360,000 in 2010 dollars).[16]

Fallen Monarchs, considered to be Baker's masterpiece,[1] was painted in the Blue Mountain Lake, New York.[15]


He is buried in a family plot in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York (see image, right).

A contemporary art critic noted that his death was "a distinct loss to American art"[13] and the New York Times stated that his death "deprived America of one of its most promising artists."[7]

Baker was just beginning to hit his stride as a landscape painter in the Realism movement[7] when he died on November 20, 1886[8] at the age of 26[n 3] of a cold[5] at his father's house at Hoosick Falls, New York after sustaining injuries while ice skating.[1][3][9] His final work was Meadow Brook.[12] Baker completed over 130 paintings in his career.[7]

Baker's headstone in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, New York.

By 1881, Baker had built a summer studio named "The Castle"[9][n 4] on the east side of Ballston Lake in the town of Clifton Park, north of Albany, New York. The studio was designed to have excellent views of the Catskill and Berkshire Mountains, and had excellent natural lighting.[9] The Clifton Park Historic Preservation Commission awarded "The Castle" its Historic Designation plaque,[11] and a "Clifton Park Register of Historic Places" sign also marks the studio property. The home is now a private residence, and it is not open to the public. Baker also had a studio in the Knickerbocker Building in New York City.

For four years beginning in 1876, Baker studied at the National Academy of Design, where he studied with Albert Bierstadt and Mauritz F. H. de Haas.[1][2][5] In 1879, he won the Elliott prize during his first exhibit.[2] In 1885, Baker won the Hallgarten Prize for his Woodland Brook.[10]

, and he discovered the property where he would build his summer studio while fishing with a friend on Ballston Lake. Ballston Spa Baker spent much of his boyhood in the town of [8]