Forward British 20th C, except portraits, Wales: Artists and Subjects 50 Can we find out more about the artist G. Howell Baker?

Ewenny Castle
Topic: Artist

I am trying to find information on the artist G. Howell Baker, G. for George. I know he lived in Bridgend in South Wales and died tragically young at the age of 42, in 1919. He had a book published of stunning pen sketches https://bit.ly/32EYFp0 and there is a biography about him https://bit.ly/2PbY37f.

Michele Davies, Entry reviewed by Art UK

50 comments

Andy Mabbett,

The book jacket and biography each give his name as "G. Howell-Baker", hyphenated.

The National Library of Wales has two prints attributed to "G. Howell-Baker", with a hyphen:

https://darganfod.llyfrgell.cymru/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=44NLW_FED1125780&context=L&vid=44WHELF_NLW_NUI&lang=en_US&search_scope=LSCOP_INLIBRARY&adaptor=Local Search Engine&tab=tab4&query=any,contains,G. Howell-Baker&offset=0

https://darganfod.llyfrgell.cymru/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=44NLW_FED1130150&context=L&vid=44WHELF_NLW_NUI&lang=en_US&search_scope=LSCOP_INLIBRARY&adaptor=Local Search Engine&tab=tab4&query=any,contains,G. Howell-Baker&offset=0

Andy Mabbett,

Google Search results include a listing of a copy Penholm for sale on ABE; the original has expired but the Google cache entry includes the bookseller's comment (typos in original!):

"Howell-Baker [1874-1919] was a lithographer and poster designer from Prestwich near Manchester. He died in Bridgend, Wales when a notice of his death puts him at 48, so his birth date might be wrong. The publisher R[eginald] Brimley Johnson [1867-1932] was a critic and editor as well as a publisher. I can only imagine that this title was a vanity project on Howell-Baker's part; he doesn't seem to have had a career as an illustrator [ though he may have been a poster designer]. A pity becuase his work on display here is well wrought and often fantastical, even a simple landscape carrying an odd sense of unease, as if shown before an impending storm. One of those artists, not in the league f Aubrey Beardsley, but still possessing 'something' above the average, who perhaps never found a champion, but whose talents deserved greater recognition."

Kieran Owens,

The above-attached death notice states that Baker was 48 at the time of his death, indicating a birth year of 1871. The attached birth registration record for Manchester for 1871 confirms this. From his parents' address at Prestwich Park, Prestwich, Lancashire, he was subsequently baptised in Prestwich parish church on the 15th March 1871. Unmarried, Baker was buried in Nolton, Glamorganshire, on the 23rd September 1919.

Andy Mabbett,

From another page [1] which only exists in web caches (reformatted for ease of reading):

Howell-Baker, George [1849-1920. UK. Painter/Lithographer/Poster Designer]

George Howell-Baker [also known as G. Howell-Baker; also as G. Howell Baker] was born in 1849. He was active as an artist in the UK from the 1870s onwards. He was a member of the North British Academy (NBA) and an Associate of the Royal West of England Academy (ARWA). Between 1912 and 1916 he exhibited seven pictures at the the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, mainly of churches. An Art Nouveau-inspired drawing by Howell-Baker of a woman smoking a cigarette is illustrated in ‘The Poster’ March 1900 (p.42). A portfolio of 25 drawing by Howell-Baker, entitled ‘Penholm’, was published by R. Brimley Johnson, London, in 1902. He illustrated the cover of the June 1900 issue of ‘The Poster’. Howell-Baker lived in Bridgend, Glamorgan, Wales. He died in 1920.

A painting of ‘Ewenny Castle’ by Howell-Baker is in the permanent collection of the National Museum in Cardiff Bibliography

Bibliography: Wood, Jeremy. Hidden talents: a dictionary of neglected artists working 1880-1950. Billingshurt, England: Jeremy Wood Fine Art, 1994


[1] https://www.arthistoryresearch.net/index.php?
mode=print&tab=1&designerRef=9170642&find;=

Andy Mabbett,

Howell-Baker (if we can call him that) is quoted on pages 252-253 of "The Poster: Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting", 1860s-1900s (Dartmouth College Press, 2014) by Ruth Iskin:

"The English artist and designer G. Howell-Baker stated that 'it is a short step from the poster on the placards to the covers of the magazine on the stationer's book-shelf, and what is more to be expected than a magazine that is placarded for sale to also find its cover a poster in miniature.'"

Unfortunately, the citation source is not shown in Google Books' preview of Iskin's work.

Andy Mabbett,

The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 20, No. 108 (March, 1912), front matter, includes a bookseller's advert offering copies of Penholm reduced from 10s.6d. to 3s. - presumably it had been remaindered.

By way of comparison, the only copy on ABE at present is priced at £315.38!

Jacinto Regalado,

The two pen-and-ink drawings for Queen Mary's Dolls' House in the Royal Collection may be mounted on a backing paper or card made separately with the artist's name, which could explain the error in the spelling. The house was built between 1921 and 1924, but there may have been preparatory activity before that, presumably after the end of WWI. It seems odd, however, that Baker would have been chosen, given his relative obscurity.

Andy Mabbett,

The work cited by Iskin (see above) is "The Ideas of an Artist". (June 1900). Poster. 4(23): 160-162 (the quote is the article's opening sentence):

https://archive.org/details/posterserial4190unse/page/160/mode/2up

He designed the cover (in colour) of the same issue:

https://archive.org/details/posterserial4190unse/page/n316/mode/1up

A brief reader's letter commenting on the article appeared in a following issue:

https://archive.org/details/posterserial4190unse/page/n327/mode/1up

Andy Mabbett,

A obituary appeared in American Art News, Volume 18. It is a cut down version of that in the Western Mail which Kieran provided above. The scan is very poor quality so, for the record, I've transcribed it:

George Howell Baker, the Welsh figure and landscape painter and art lecturer, died recently in England aged 45; He is represented in the art galleries of Cardiff, Swansea and Aberystwyth and showed at the Paris Salon and at a number of London galleries. The late Sir Ernest Waterlow considered the symbolic and imaginative quality of his work "unique." He was a man of versatile talent and did carving; etching and silverpoint. His best known oils are "Joan of Arc;" the "Angel of Pity," "A Window in the Woodlands" "Serpent in the Wilderness and "In Memoriam."

https://archive.org/details/jstor-25589527/page/n1/mode/2up

Kieran Owens,

Jeremy Wood Fine Art's birth date for George Howell Baker of 1849 is incorrect. He was born in 1871 and died in 1919, and not 1920 as they also claim.

George Howell Baker's parents were George Baker, a lace merchant, and Mary Catherine Howell, who were married at Bridgend in late 1868.

The 1911 Census records the artist's mother as Mary Catherine Baker and his sister as Mary Catherine Helen Baker, and not either of them was Howell-Baker. Both his birth and baptismal record (the latter attached) also show that he was given the first names of George Howell and that his surname was Baker, and not that he was George with the surname Howell-Baker. His 1919 burial record identifies him as an un-hyphenated George Howell Baker.

All of that said, his surname is rendered as Howell-Baker for the publications 'Victor of Destiny (1901) and 'Penholm' (1902), and his own advertisement (attached) in the Glamorgan Gazette, of Friday 29th September 1911, uses the hyphenated name.

It will be up to the collection to finally determine which surname is the more appropriate one to use.

Some affectionate reminiscences (attached) of the artist appeared in the Port Talbot Guardian on Thursday 25th April 1968.

Kieran Owens,

In the attachment above, of the 14th November 1902, the full title of the publication in which Baker contributed using the pen name 'Rekab' was the Western Counties Graphic. It appears to have had a very short lifespan from about 1901 to 1903. It does not appear in the BNA.

Andy Mabbett,

Another obituary, in The Glamorgan Gazette, 26th September 1919, similar to but having more detail than that in the Western Mail, refers to him also as a wood-carver.

It also places "Joan of Arc" in St. Agnes', Rouen (W. Mail has it in "St Anne's"), and notes that "he had intended going to London to publish his eight pen and ink works, each containing several hundred pages; to arrange for an exhibition of his oil and water colour works, and also to be proposed a member oi the Etching Association."

https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3887579/3887582/7

Andy Mabbett,

An interview with Howell-Baker, originally published in 'The Charring Cross Magazine', was reprinted in The Western Mail, 19th June 1900 (the original, but not the reprint, was illustrated.

https://newspapers.library.wales/view/4341341/4341347/113/


He exhibited four oil portraits (of Miss Dorothy M. Taylor, Gorphwysfa, Penarth, Dr. W. Edmund Thomas, Ashfield, Bridgend, Miss Dollie Allen, Llwyn Celyn, Bridgend, and Mr. A. Taylor, Inspector of Schools), plus another oil painting, "Majorie", and two watercolours, "Callers" and "A Wayside Cross" in May 1914, "at Cardiff in connection with the South Wales Art Society":

https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3885660/3885668/111/

Kieran Owens,

In the Wikipedia article you write that "two years later died at his home, Ingleside, Bridgend, on 19 September 1919. He was aged 41...". However, 1919 minus 1871 equals 48, as both you and I posted above on the 24th April.

Kieran Owens,

Here is the house, Stone Edge, on Station Road, Marple, where Baker grew up, at least from the age of 10 years in 1881 to 20 in 1891:

https://visitmarple.co.uk/photos/displayimage.php?pid=3657

Also, he was born in Prestwich and not in Marple. The attached entry for the 1871 UK Census shows him as living, when just one month old, at Prestwich Park and stating that he was born in Prestwich. The 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census returns also list him as having been born there. Any references to his having been born in Marple are incorrect.

Andy Mabbett,

Thank you, Kieran. I've tidied those issues and noted the conflicting claims in a footnote.

I've had no success in finding more about the work at Rouen, nor about the painting "accepted " (and presumably exhibited) by the RA. Indeed, other than the work at the head of this discussion, I can find nothing to say any of his works in oil survive.

For the record, no works by this artist (either under Baker or Howell Baker or Howell-Baker) were ever shown at the Royal Scottish Academy's Annual Exhibitions.

Mark Wilson,

The pieces in the Queen Mary's Dolls' House collection continue to be a mystery. I can find no evidence that anything was proposed before 1921, two years after Howell Baker's death:

https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/trails/queen-marys-dolls-house/prints-and-paintings

And most artworks in the QMDH are dated c 1923. However submitting artworks may not be exclusive as you might expect. As the RCT say "Princess Marie Louise contacted 700 notable artists of the day", which number strikes be as fairly wide-ranging and I suspect Howell Baker could have been invited automatically as a member of the Royal West of England Academy. Maybe an old list was used or no one had informed them of his death. Certainly I can see no other posthumous contributions (it was meant to showcase current art and design).

So where did the two pen and ink drawings come from? Their subject matter is typical of him, though the execution is much sparer, but they are only 1/12th size. I suppose it's possible that there were sketches of the right size among his effects or that they were cut from sketchbooks or larger works. It may even be that his sister (who was also an artist according to the 1911 Census) made suitably sized reductions.

I suspect there may be a letter somewhere in the RCT archives from his family, saying how honoured they were that that their late son/brother had been chosen to contribute to such a prestigious project and please find enclosed etc, etc. They weren't going to send back the sketches in those circumstances (think what the Daily Mail would say) and that would explain the "D. C. 1922" in the records.

Those miniature artworks not actually on display in the Dolls' House (obviously the vast majority) are kept each displayed in their own miniature folder with the artists name written on the folder. They all seem to be in the same handwriting, so this wouldn't have been done by the artists and that presumably explains the misspelling of Howell.

His use of his middle/maternal name may have been influenced by there being other artists also called George Baker such as a near-contemporary one in the US (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Herbert_Baker) - oddly enough also with a Cincinnati connection. He may also have wished to emphasise his Welsh roots after the family move there.

Andy Mabbett,

I have written to the Royal Collection Trust, explaining the Dollss House matter and inviting their involvement in this discussion

Andy Mabbett,

I now have the scan of the scrapbook; its a treasure-trove of Howell-Baker's drawings, but the biographical content is very thin.

I have uploaded a copy to Wikimedia Commons[1]. The library say they will have it on their own online repository "soon".

The small amount of new information is that the drawings it contains were taken to Cincinnati by HB's bereaved fiance, Lillie Abbot, who moved and remained there after hjs death; and that "as a child, he was very sickly and his life was despaired of before he was ten years old"

Ironically, Langstroth, writing in 1958, comments:

"I love the work of G. Howell-Baker not only for his master-hand, but because he is absolutely unknown—a nobody. In the scent forty years since his death, he has been completely forgotten—erased
from the face of the earth. There isn't as much as one line or word about him in the Cincinnati Public Library nor in the New York Public Library, for that matter. A letter sent to London, England,
verified the fact that they also have forgotten him.

"It is apparent that it was his destiny to be erased from the face of the earth."

I am pleased that, thanks to our combined efforts, that is no longer the case.


[1] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Victor_of_Destiny,_or,_The_life_of_G._Howell-Baker_-_74126fB167.pdf

Andy Mabbett,

P.S. The scrapbook also included an obituary from 'The South Wales News', 22 September 1919, which I have transcribed. Can anyone make out the illegible word, which has been amended by hand to correct a typographical error?

#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#

Mr George Howell Baker, of Ingleside, Bridgend, passed away at his residence on Friday night from a seizure following a nervous breakdown two years ago. Deceased was an artist well known throughout South Wales, in London, and in Paris. He had exhibited in the Salon, Paris, and in some of the London galleries. A painting of "Llanilid Church" by Mr Banker was accepted by the Royal Academy a few years ago. "The Serpent in the Wilderness," a wonderful piece of oriental work, was favourably criticised when exhibited; so was "The Angel of Pity." Other paintings that have been favourably commented upon are "Joan of Arc." "Westward Ho," "Dusk," and "In Memoriam." He was hard at work upon a large painting entitled " The Boat of Souls" and another, "The Heavenly [illegible]" when illness overtook him.

When illness overtook him he had Made a reputation in pen and from sketches and received warm eulogy from the Earl of Plymouth for two books of illustration (one of "The Forest Hymn") which were dedicated to his lordship. He was a regular exhibitor at Cardiff; Swansea, Bristol and Aberystwyth, and five years ago he was appointed to the Council in connection with the Glamorgan Education Committee. He illustrated for a large number of London periodicals and art journals. Deceased was also a poet of merit. He was born at Prestwick Park, Manchester, the son of the late Mr George Baker, of London and Manchester, and Mrs Baker, Bridgend. He was 41 years of age and a bachelor.

#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#

A cropped image is here:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Obituary_-_South_Wales_Artist's_Career_-_South_Wales_News_-_anon_-_1919-09_-_G._Howell-Baker.jpg

Probably 'pallate', which is a variant of 'pallat' or more usually 'pallet', meaning either a temporary or portable bed, historically often used by servants sleeping in rooms adjacent to aristocratic masters. There are no other obvious options.

Kieran Owens,

The Glamorgan Gazette, of Friday 25th October 1907, carried the following notice:

"LOCAL ARTIST'S DRAWINGS —Mr. J. Hardwicke Price, of Bridgend, has presented to the Swansea Library Committee for the Art Collection, six pen and ink drawings by Mr. G. Howell Baker, of Bridgend."

The Cambria Daily Leader, of Tuesday 22nd February 1916, mentioned the following as a gift to the Glyn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea:

"Four black and white drawings and one water colour painting from Mr. G. Howell Baker...."

Also, a more clearly printed version of the above-referenced obituary that appeared in The Glamorgan Gazette on Friday 26th September 1919 is attached.

Details so far missing from Andy's Wiki summary and above seem to be the year GHB exhibited (just once?) at the RA; which month's issue of the 1902 'Magazine of Art' his 'Penholm' book was reviewed in; and the year he was elected Associate of the Royal West of England Academy.

Jacinto Regalado,

I cannot find him in the Royal Academy catalogues.

Mark Wilson,

It may be too obvious, but could the mangled word in the obituary be meant to be 'palette'. Presumably metaphorically to mean a range of colours rather than literally as in artist's palette. Misspelling it as 'pallete' is fairly easily done, not least because of all the similar sounding words pallet/palate and their numerous meanings. It's one of those words I always have to check the spelling of. Certainly 'The Heavenly Palette' seems a more plausible title for a picture.

Andy Mabbett,

I have written to Swansea Libraries to see if they can tell us more about the drawings donated to them; I am also in the process of writing to RWA (I mention this lest others contact them also).

The bound volume of 'Magazine of Art' scanned by the Internet Archive does not indicate where one monthly issue starts and another ends, and the pages are not labelled with dates.

H-B's finance was " Abbott", not " Abbot" (my typo).

Another item of interest in the scrapbook is an illustrated score and words for a hymn, "S.S. Bremen", which can now be seen, and which I have transcribed, on Wikisource [1]. The music is by E. Edgar Evans, about whom nether I nor my musicologist friend can find anything.

[1] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/S.S._Bremen

Just returning to the painting: from web images it appears to show part of the perimeter walls of Ewenny Priory outside Bridgend, not the castle ('Newcastle') in the centre of the town. Perhaps that could be clarified.

Kieran Owens,

The E. Edgar Evans above could possibly be the person who, as reported in the Glamorganshire newspapers in 1892, attended the Tonic Sol-Fa College where he obtained a certificate in Harmony Analysis and from which he matriculated in 1894. He is possibly associated with Evan Edgar Evans, one of the proprietors of the Bridgend Chronicle.

Andy Mabbett,

I have a reply from RWA which I reproduce here, with attachment, trusting that the formatting will persist:

#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#

Our records for anything prior to the Second World War are rather scant, owing to the fact that many records were lost during the Bristol blitz, but I have found some additional information which may interest you.

According to our records, Howell-Baker became an associate member in 1910, allowing him to use the ARWA title.

He exhibited quite regularly at the academy:

1903
Catalogue number 389 Rebecca - Ivanhoe £10 10s
406 Llanilid Church £10 10s
564 Design for a Xmas card
571 Design for a Xmas card
572 Book plate design
583 Illustrations
584 Illustrations

1904
604 Gateway of Llanmaes House, Glamorganshire £15 15s
888 A Cloud to Starboard £5

1907
740 Westward Ho! £25

1913
434 Neath the Shade of the King's Trees, Alum Valley £25

1915
432 Uphill Church, Weston-Super-Mare
468 Llanmibansel Church £15

1916
343 The Baptistry £50.

There are some years when he didn't submit work to the annual exhibition and there are some years where we don't have a catalogue for that year, so this is not an exhaustive list of his submissions, but I hope it is of some use to you.

We also have three of his prints in our permanent collection, an image of which I have attached for your own reference:

'The Rue Don Maurice, Quimperle', 'There She Sees the Highway Near..', and 'Pen-Y-Rheol, Lisworney'.

They were originally part of a collection of artworks which had been put together in a specially built cabinet as a gift to the president of the academy, Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills, in recognition of her services to the academy. Upon her death, she bequeathed the collection and cabinet back to the academy.

Andy Mabbett,

An insight into the Baker family's fortunes, on page 13 of this local history document [PDF, 1.6MB], in an anecdotal piece called "I Remember", by Phyllis Santon, née Lloyd:

"The four girls started their education at a small private school, situated near Brynhyfryd. It was run by Miss Baker, an impoverished gentlewoman whose family had lost their money. Though untrained, she had been reduced to teaching to earn a living. Her brother was a well-known artist, George Howell Baker. A lot of his etchings were hung for years in the Swansea Museum. Consequently, we had an excellent grounding in reading, art and the more cultured side of life, while lessons in mathematics etc., were woefully inadequate. [...] After the girls completed their primary schooling at Miss Bakers, they went to the Bridgend County School."

https://kaihuvalleyhistory.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/a-santon-generations-of-grand-mum.pdf

Andy Mabbett,

As mentioned above, The Glamorgan Gazette, 25 October 1907, says

"Mr. J. Hardwicke Price, of Bridgend, has presented to the Swansea Library Committee for the Art Collection, six pen and ink drawings by Mr. G. Howell Baker, of Bridgend."

I have heard from Swansea Central Library, who say any works they had were transferred to the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.

The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery tell me that "Baker donated 11 items in 1916", and have kindly supplied the attached extract from their catalogue, listing all eleven works in their collection.

1 attachment
Andy Mabbett,

I have further correspondence from the helpful people at GVAG, which refers to two pamphlets associated with Howell-Baker, 'Pen and Palette No. 1 Volume 1' and 'Pen and Palette No. 3 Volume 1', which "probably relate to The Pen and Palette Club, established 1900". GVAG have copies, but in storage. I have written to the club...

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

jpg, png, pdf, doc, xls (max 6MB)
Drop your files here
Attach a file Start uploading
 

Sign in

By signing in you agree to the Terms & Conditions, which includes our use of cookies.