Ralph Baker (1908-1976)
Not much is known about the life of Ralph Baker. In 1921, at age thirteen, he moved from Tennessee to Red Bluff, California, and shortly thereafter settled in San Francisco. He studied art with commercial artist/watercolorist Maurice Logan and attended the Brino School of Lithography. For forty-five years he worked in the art department of Stecher-Traung-Schmidt Lithograph Company in San Francisco. In its lifetime the company printed everything from nineteenth-century bird’s-eye views to fruit box labels and cardboard shipping cartons.
In the 1950’s, Baker began visiting Tuolumne County, weekending at a retreat at Jacksonville, and painting scenes of the former Mother Lode. His loose, broad-brushed style is a legacy from the California Watercolor Style of the 1930’s, but it is more modern in its angularity. Great Depression artists who were looking for symbols of a fundamentally sound but externally tattered America found them in the weathered buildings of California’s many mining towns. In subsequent years artists have been attracted by the area’s generally picturesque nature and its aspect of nostalgia. Baker’s compositions range from pure landscapes to those with old barns, houses, or mining structures as focal points.
Art at the Jonathan Club, Jonathan Art Foundation