Published: May 25, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Baum School of Art
ALLENTOWN, PENN. – The Baum School of Art’s 36th Annual Art Auction, May 9-15, was conducted online once again this year. Although the bidding itself took place virtually, the David E. Rodale and Rodale Family Galleries, as well as the school’s Fowler Community Room, featured the artwork available for in-person previews by appointment. The top selling lot was “Bucks County Farmhouse” by Pennsylvania Impressionist and founder of the school, Walter Emerson Baum (1884-1956). The piece, an oil painting, 32 by 40 inches, found an anonymous buyer at $11,000. This year’s auction boasted more than 430 works of art with artists from the Pennsylvania Impressionist period of Baum to contemporary, local artists.
“Our after-sale is in full swing,” said Lauren Faurl, the school’s director of development and communications, after the sale closed on May 15. At that point, it had raised more than $143,211. There were 290 registered bidders using the online platform Givergy, an award-winning fundraising technology company founded in 2009 that has helped raise more than $650 million in the charity world.
The Baum School of Art is a community nonprofit visual arts school located in downtown Allentown. Its stated mission is to enrich lives through arts education, and it strives to achieve that through tuition classes for children, teens and adults, along with many community outreach programs. In 2018-19, it said it served more than 4,200 students in art, design and fashion.
In presenting this year’s auction, the school acknowledged the significant challenges faced by the entire arts community during the Covid-19 pandemic. The school invites more than 50 professional local artists each year to include up to three pieces in the event. This year, the school had a record number of 59 participating artists, with all proceeds directly supporting artists, as well as the school.
Although there was a wide variety of subject matter, media and artists in this year’s sale, it was fitting that six of the auction’s top ten lots were by Baum, whose vision has guided the school’s mission for more than 94 years. The artist believed that art is essential to everyone’s life, that anyone can make art and that everyone should have the opportunity to make art.
Baum, who in addition to being a prolific painter, also was responsible for founding the Allentown Art Museum, was born in Sellersville, Penn., one of the few Pennsylvania impressionist artists actually born in Bucks County. He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1905-06, studying with Thomas Pollock Anshutz, Hugh H. Breckenridge, William Merritt Chase and Cecilia Beaux.
But as the life of an artist is rarely easy, with the responsibilities of a husband and father to four children, Baum took odd jobs to support his family, including working in the family’s barbershop and as a writer, photographer and editor for local publications. As his paintings became better known, he taught art classes at his home in Sellersville and at the local high school.
In addition to the above-mentioned “Bucks County Farmhouse,” Baum was also represented in the sale’s top ten with “Former Christopher Schultz Homestead – Schwenkfelder Farm,” 21 by 25 inches, which sold for $9,350; “Autumn Road,” 20¼ by 24½ inches, bringing $5,500; “Quakertown Street,” 22 by 26 inches, fetching $5,390; “City Street Corner,” 33½ by 39½ inches, going out at $4,180; and “Mill Road, 22½ by 26 inches, realizing $3,300.
The event also featured a number of paintings from contemporary working artists, including Emily Strong, Dana Van Horn, Renzo Faggioli, Laura Gelsomini and Val Bertoia. Bertoia’s “B-2385 Forward Sounds,” a sculpture of brass, beryllium-copper and silver, 45 by 11 by 11 inches, was bid to $9,020.
A work by Walter I. Mattern (1891-1946), an American Impressionist and Modern painter, was “Reflection,” 33¼ by 38 inches, that commanded $3,300, while “Haunted,” 29 by 41 inches, by local contemporary artist Milan Melicharek earned $3,080.
Baum Circle member John Emil Berninger (American, 1896-1981) landscape painter and Pennsylvania Impressionist, who lived and painted in Allentown, was represented with “Little Lehigh,” 20½ by 24½ inches, which found a buyer at $2,199. The Baum Circle was a group of artists either taught by, associated with or directly influenced by Baum.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.baumschool.org or 610-433-0032.
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
January 31, 2023
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