Elisha Taylor Baker, American (1827 – 1890)

Oil on canvas, depicting the New York Pilot Schooner CENTENNIAL No. 7, signed lower left, "ET Baker" in Baker's typical signature where he combines the initials E & T with his last name Baker, circa 1878. The painting is one of a few known signed luminescent examples of Baker’s works. The sky has puffy cumulus clouds filled with red, purple and other colors creating a dramatic luminescent backdrop to the “Centennial”. Below the boat the water has beautiful light mirroring the colors in the sky. The white-hulled schooner at the center is painted with excellent detail. There is a red banner flying from the top of the main mast with the name “Centennial” and painted on the main sail is a large number “7” indicating she was New York Pilot boat No. 7.   There is a red buoy on the right adding color to the painting. There are also other sailing vessels shown in the distance and land rising from the sea along the horizon. This highly luminescent example of ET Baker is one of the finer and more dramatic examples of his work.
Condition:  The painting has been lined. Under black light inspection, it is apparent that the artist made an error and originally painted the number 5 on the sail where he should have painted number 7, which matched the true number of the pilot boat. Upon realizing the error, Baker painted out the incorrect 5 and replaced it with the 7. These changes cannot be seen with the naked eye. The are also two small areas of restoration, one to left and one to the right of the vessel. There is a very small spot of in-paint on the sail.        

Provenance: The back of the painting has a label from the Burrichter/Kierlin Collection. A book titled "Charting New Waters" shows paintings from this collection. This premier private collection of 19th and 20th-century American and European paintings centering on water - life's spiritual and essential element. The forty-three superb examples, selected from the substantial holdings of Mary Burrichter and Robert Kierlin, include some remarkably beautiful and rare works by leading artists of the Hudson River School, French and American Impressionists, and early modernists. Expanding the meaning of the word marine art from "oceanic" to "aquatic," Burrichter and Kierlin have collected exceptional paintings that include all bodies of water, from infinite oceans and coursing rivers to trickling stream, tranquil lakes, and inland pools. The collection spotlights some brilliant and rarely seen international art and cross-continental currents - most especially between the United States and France and England - that are illuminated in the excellent catalog entries written by some of America's leading art historians, university professors, and museum curators. The introductory essay chronicles the altruistic vision of the collectors and explores some of the connections and influences that took place between American and European artists. In this richly illustrated book are early maritime images by James Buttersworth and Fitz Henry Lane; later maritime painters Alfred Bricher and Edward Moran; coastal scenes by Wassily Kandinsky and Claude Monet; figural works by Mary Cassatt and Theodore Robinson; important pictures by the less-well-known Dutch-trained artist William Frederick De Haas and the extraordinary African-American artist Robert Duncanson; and early career canvases by Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondrian. Burrichter/Kierlin purchased the famous painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" from the person who lent it to the White House for several years and after exhibiting the piece at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, Minnesota situated on the banks of the upper Mississippi River, they decided to sell the painting whereby Christie's, New York sold it for $45,000,000. Visitors to this visionary collection will find surprising masterpieces.

Note 1: The pilot boat “Centennial” No. 7 was built in the Centennial year of 1876 by Robert Crosbie and designed by Dennison J. Lawlor who drafted New York and New Jersey pilot boats. By 1898 she was the last remaining sail- powered pilot boat in the New York Harbor. She was then sold to a group operating in Montego Bay.
 Centennial measured 76 feet in length, 20.6 feet in breath and she drew 8.6 feet. Reference: Wikipedia which shows a picture of this painting.
Note 2: There are a few other Baker signed luminist paintings that are published. One is published in the book “The New York Yacht Club Book, A History, 1844-2008", page 83, depicting the painting, Yacht Puritan Winner of the 1885 America’s Cup. It is similar to the Centennial in composition, color and size. The second book is titled “Yachts on Canvas, Images of Yachts from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day” by James Taylor and shows "Bedouin off Execution Rocks Lighthouse". This painting came from the famed Glen Foster Collection.

Biography: Elisha Baker was a marine painter with first-hand knowledge of his subject.  Born in New York City, he spent his formative years with his extended family in the whaling ports of Connecticut.  He married a local woman in 1851, and likely joined in the lucrative whale oil and baleen trades. He first formally registered as an artist back in New York City in 1868.  This occupation change was likely prompted by the heavy destruction inflicted upon the northern whaling fleets during the American Civil War.  The dozens of known works by Baker indicate the shift was profitable and, artistically speaking, highly merited.  His early unsigned works are often attributed to him, as he increased the quality and detail of his works, he painted many fewer pictures. This is the reason one rarely sees his mature work which by the late 1870's  he signed "E. T. Baker" in an intertwined monogram style. He painted with fine draftsman-like techniques. Further he enhanced his works with flashes of luminescence, which progressed from the Hudson River School through the works of Fitz Henry Lane and William Bradford.
Dimensions of Painting: Height 22, Width 36 inches.
Dimensions of Frame: Height 31 3/8, Width 45 1/8 inches.