Spotlight on Art: Walter Emerson Baum

Alderfer Auction’s Fine & Decorative Arts Auction on September 28, 2017  featured some exceptional and very collectible works of art. Among them, were several paintings by Pennsylvania Impressionist Walter Emerson Baum (1884-1956) who was part of an esteemed group of artists that were also referred to as the Bucks County Impressionists or artists of The New Hope school. This school of painting was started by William Langson Lathrop and Edward Redfield in 1898. Attracted to the unspoiled land of Bucks County, artists captured the light and shadows of local landscapes in the plein-air style (painting outside “in the open air”). The group grew to include the likes of Schofield, Sotter, Snell, Coppedge, Garber, and Baum. Characterized by thick brushwork and bold colors, the Pennsylvania Impressionists created some of the most well-known and highly prized works of the early 20th century.

Baum was born in Sellersville, PA, where he remained his entire life. He was not only a painter, but printmaker, teacher and writer as well. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later founded the Allentown Art Museum and Baum School of Art. He created the Bucks County Traveling Art Gallery, teaching art appreciation to area schools. He was a very prolific artist over 4 decades, with more than 2000 works to his credit, in oils, tempera, watercolor and pastel. Baum painted country and village scenes of Bucks and Lehigh Counties, as well as urban town streets of Eastern Pennsylvania. He was responsible for expanding the impressionist movement out of Bucks County and into Lehigh County, where it continued to flourish into the 1940’s-50’s. This Lehigh Valley group became known as the “Baum Circle”. Impressionism started to fade out of style in the 50’s, giving way to modernism and abstract art. It has regained popularity in recent decades, however, as evidenced by auction sales of art in this style.

W.E. Baum (as he signed most of his works) continues to attract collectors, both locally as well as across the country. Past sales of Baum (over the last 2 years) have consistently brought an average of $1500-$3000 at auction, although much higher results have also been achieved. In November of 2007, “The Pink House” sold for $73,000 and in December of that same year, “April Spring Day” sold at Alderfer’s for $54,625. More recently, “Helfrich Springs” sold for $8000 (Dec. 2015), and “Main” sold for $4000 (Dec. 2016), both at Alderfer Auction. “Winter Farmhouse” recently brought in $6600 at Alderfer’s Fine and Decorative Arts Sale. If you are looking to acquire a great example of Pennsylvania Impressionism for a reasonable price, Baum is a smart choice, and remains a good investment. If you already own a Baum, you may want to consider an appraisal to update the value, particularly for insurance purposes. If you are interested in talking to an appraiser, contact National Appraisal Consultants, LLC at 800-323-5996. If you have a painting you would like to sell or need additional information about upcoming Fine Arts Sales, contact Alderfer Auction at 215-393-3000.

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