Bryant Baker

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Bryant Baker.
Bryant Baker with the Pioneer Woman.

Bryant Baker studied in London at the City and Guild Technical Institute and the Royal Academy of Arts. His decorative carvings and sculpture were installed at Westminster Abbey and other cathedrals. In 1916 he moved to the United States and served in the army, working to rehabilitate American veterans from World War I by modeling artificial limbs. Baker won commissions for busts of five presidents, including John F. Kennedy. He also made bronze and marble statues of other political figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Henry Cabot Lodge. He was a Fellow of the National Sculpture Society, the Royal Society of British Sculptors, and a life member of St. George’s Society.

Bryant Baker was born in London into a family of sculptors and craftsmen. He studied at the Royal Academy of Arts and created decorative carvings for Westminster Abbey and the Victoria and Albert Museum. While at the academy, he was chosen by King George V and Queen Alexandra to model a statue and bust of King Edward VII. The royal family were so pleased with his work that they requested fourteen replicas of the bust in marble. In 1916 he came to the United States and volunteered in the Medical Corps, making artificial limbs and face masks for injured soldiers. He created sculptures of many presidents, including a seventeen-foot statue of George Washington and busts of William H. Taft, John F. Kennedy, and Calvin Coolidge.

Biography

Baker was born on July 8, 1881, in London, United Kingdom, to John Baker, a sculptor. His father and his grandfather were both sculptorss and worked on wood and stone carvings at Westminster Abbey. His brother was Robert P. Baker, also a sculptor of note. He became an apprentice sculptor under his father, and carved Gothic statues for Beverley Minster and decorative elements for the Victoria and Albert Museum. He studied art and sculpting at the City and Guild Technical Institute and later at the Royal Academy of Arts. He graduated from the latter in 1910.

In 1910, Queen Alexandra commissioned him to sculpt a bust of Edward VII. She was so impressed with his work, that she then commissioned him to design a life-size statue of Edward VII, and later a bust in marble of the nine-year-old Prince Olaf of Norway.

In 1916, Baker emigrated to the United States, where he enlisted in the United States Army. He served during World War I in Army hospitals, crafting artificial limbs and face masks for wounded soldiers. He became a U.S. citizen in 1923.

In 1928, millionaire Oklahoma oilman E. W. Marland sponsored a $100,000 competition to create a statue honoring pioneering women of the American Old West. Baker won the design competition, and in 1930 his 27-foot (8.2 m) high, 12,000 pounds (5,400 kg) statue, Pioneer Woman, was unveiled in Ponca City, Oklahoma. It became his best-known work. In 1957, Baker was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full member in 1959.

Baker never married. In his final years, Baker lived in The Gainsborough high-rise apartment building at 222 West 59th Street in New York City. He died of unspecified causes at St. Barnabas Hospital in The Bronx on March 29, 1970. He was cremated, and his ashes interred at St. Peter's Church in Fordcombe, Kent, England.

Shortly after his death, the contents of his New York studio were purchased and moved to the E. W. Marland Mansion in Ponca City. The mansion is now known as the Ponca City Cultural Center, and Baker's studio and copies of many of his works are on display there.

Baker was a Freemason, and belonged to the Constitutional Lodge No. 294 at Beverley, Yorkshire, England.

Notable Works

  • Pioneer Woman, 1930, Ponca City, Oklahoma, 27 feet (8.2 m) tall
  • Portrait plaque of Stephen Tyng Mather, 1930, with castings in dozens of U.S. National Park Service areas
  • Grover Cleveland, 1932, Buffalo, New York, monumental sized
  • Millard Fillmore, 1932, Buffalo, New York, monumental sized
  • L'Apres-Midi d'un Faune, 1934, Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
  • John M. Clayton, 1934, National Statuary Hall Collection, Washington D.C. (for Delaware)
  • Caesar Rodney, 1934, National Statuary Hall Collection, Washington D.C. (for Delaware)
  • Abraham Lincoln Statue, 1935, Delaware Park, Buffalo, New York
  • Bust of Cordell Hull, 1943, OAS Aztec Garden, Washington, D.C. (see also: List of public art in Ward 2)
  • William Borah, 1947, National Statuary Hall Collection, Washington D.C. (for Idaho)
  • George Washington, 1950, George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia
  • William C. Gorgas, 1954, Mobile County Health Department, Mobile, AL
  • Charles Penrose, 1956, formerly in the Newcomen Society of the United States
  • Bust of Sir Winston Churchill, 1958, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
  • According to the Smithsonian Institution, several copies of Baker's works can be found at the Ponca City Cultural Center in Ponca City, Oklahoma.

About Pickens Museum

Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup".
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. “Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp” is a bronze created by Osage Artist John Free. The bronze, eight feet high and twelve feet long) was enlarged to 1-1/4 life size through the efforts of John Free of the Bronze Horse foundry in Pawhuska and Hugh Pickens. Pictured (L-R): Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. “Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman” is a mural painted by fine artist Daniel Pickens. Daniel was born in Lima, Peru in 1974 and is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. This mural is at our Ponca City location.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. Our mural "The Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman" is located in City Central at our Ponca City location.
Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art. Pickens Museum displays art works at NOC Tonkawa campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College) This art is at our Tonkawa location
Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum.
The World's Largest Naja. Future location of Pickens Museum on Route 60 and "U" Street West of Ponca City
Architectural Renderings of Pickens Museum.
Display of Turquoise Jewelry.
"Red Man" by Native American Artist Fritz Scholder. Pickens Museum Director Hugh Pickens on right.
Native American Jewelry Artist Tonya Rafael with a silver frame she created to honor my wife Sr. S.J. Pickens. My wife and Tonya worked together over the years creating new jewelry art pieces. My wife had an eye for color and would often design a spectacular piece and ask Tonya to execute it for her. A skilled silversmith, Tonya would sometimes stay in our guest house, set up a workshop, and work for days at a time on a Squash Blossom, Bolo, or Bracelet my wife commissioned. The piece is a silver picture frame that Tonya cut out of thick silver plate. Around the edge of the picture frame are 95 small turquoise stones. In the top is a large spiny oyster stone in the shape of a heart. The frame contains a photo that Tonya took of my wife a few years ago. Dr. Pickens is wearing one of her favorite outfits and if you look closely you can see a special squash blossom and necklace that Tonya created for my wife. In the bottom of the frame is an inscription.
Native American Artist Jolene Bird. Jolene Bird is an accomplished artist who learned her craft from her grandfather over 20 years ago. Jolene makes her jewelry in the tradition of the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico. This is a Fender Stratocaster guitar onto which Jolene has attached pieces of Kingman and Sonoran Turquoise highlighted with Jet. The stars are in Abalone, Mother of Pearl, Pipestone, Yellow Serpentine, and Spiny Oyster. The artistry in this piece is simply breathtaking and has to be seen to be believed. Consider that this is a three dimensional mosaic, a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will. Jolene told me that each individual piece of turquoise had to be cut, shaped, and ground down to fit perfectly with the other pieces. Each individual piece probably took six to eight hours to produce and there are literally hundreds of pieces covering the guitar.
Painting by Peruvian Artist Josue Sanchez. Photo Credit: Hugh Pickens Pickens Museum

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