No. 77 Martin Baer

 

Martin Baer, of the former inseparable team of the Baer Brothers, Martin and George, is back in Chicago, intending to stay at least a year. With him is his wife, the former Mme. Janina Liszkowska, once direction of the Galerié de la Jeune Peinture, Paris, which succumbed — like so many other Parisian galleries — to the Depression, and who is now associated, as American representative, with the Galerié Benezit. Mrs. Baer retains, for professional purposes,  her name of Mme. Liszkowska, her first husband being the Polish poet who was associated with that other Polish poet, Zborowski, faithful friends of Modigliani.

 

George Baer, not a great while after he and Martin had a big show at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1926 and another in New York in 1928, decided to make his home in America, and now has a studio school in Connecticut, within commuting distance of New York. Martin went back to Paris and, until his return to Chicago just now, he has been one of the group loosely carrying on the tradition of Modigliani.

 

This group centered around Mme. Liszkowska and her gallery, which Kisling helped her establish after the death of her poet husband. Soutine is another celebrity of this group, and the painters Kikoine and Kremine and the sculptor Breener. Durand-Ruel, in Paris, gave the group a show.

 

Mme. Liszkowska’s sister, Luna Czechowska, was for five years the model of Modigliani — the blonde model who posed for some of this greatest pictures.

The sisters came to Paris from Poland, and it was at their home that Zborowski lived and slept on the floor in the days before he made his fortune from Modigliani’s pictures. Luna Czechowska is now married to a Polish prince.

 

The sisters, like Janina’s husband, went to Paris from Poland to make their mark as writers and poets. Mrs. Baer, just now, is strenuously engaged in learning the English language, hoping to take an active part in the art life of Chicago and America.

 

The paintings Martin Baer and his brother showed in Chicago in 1926 were mostly work they had done in Algeria, where they “went native,” almost to the degree of Gauguin in Tahiti.

 

They took back to Paris and eventually to Chicago pictures that were a “new note,” clear out of the tradition of Delacroix, the first to make Paris conscious of North Africa.

 

From Delacroix stemmed two entirely different “schools” of French painters of the African colonists, Gerome and Renoir.

 

The Baer’s discarded both “schools.” They looked at the Algerians with the eyes of the “moderns,” and while the results savored a bit too strong of El Greco, the brothers produced something genuinely worthwhile.

 

Martin, for 18 months ending early this year, sojourned with his wife at Ibiza, a picturesque town in the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain, and he new pictures are an epic of that locale, just as his old were of the village of Laghouat, Algeria, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. He found the women, who are dark as Moors, marvelous models, but the men uninteresting types. Under the tropic sun, he painted a series of Spanish-Moorish girls entirely different in character from his Algerians, and this time without suggestion of an “ism.” The Greco influence has vanished, and Martin Baer seems to have found himself — a self-sufficient self.

 

Returning to Paris shortly after getting news of the death in December 1935 of his father (Leopold Baer, engraver) in Chicago, Martin Baer gave an exhibition there of his work, preparatory to coming back home to visit his mother.

 

The show was staged in the Galerié Benezit, with which his wife formed her connection after the demise of her own gallery, and it was not only an artistic but, to their surprise considering the unrest in Paris, a financial success.

 

Albert Sarraut, late French premier, bought “Anna,” the portrait of a village girl of Ibiza, and Edouard Herriot, another former premier, acquired another portrait of the same girl. D. Dezarrois, on behalf of the French state, selected “Maria,” another Ibizan girl, for the Jeu de Paume Museum, Paris, and there were a number of other pictures bought by French celebrities including Mme. Jeanne Lanvin, manger of the Paris Maison de Couture. An American, Henry Williams, acquired two for the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco: “Repas” and “Pepita.” Mrs. Chester Dale, another American collector, incidentally owns five of his paintings.

 

Back in Chicago, Martin Baer thinks now he will devote a year at least to “the American scene.” Accustomed, from his Algerian and Balearic experiences, to dark peoples, he has considered a sojourn in Georgia, with a possible few months in Mexico. But for the time being, he may go up into Wisconsin. He has painted in both Cezanne’s country, around Aix, and in Van Gogh’s, around Aries, and knows the white peoples as well as the dark. Or he may take a studio and stay in Chicago. His “metropolitan” experience includes months and years in Paris and Munich.

 

Having discarded his El Greco “influences” — as well as the “influences” of Cranach and Kokschka, other early gods — and with his vast and diversified experience, Martin Baer may do something eminently worthwhile with “the American scene.” It’s an adventure promising excitement and abundantly worthwhile.

 

Martin Baer is of German descent. He was born in Chicago in 1894, and his brother George was born here in 1895. Their father was a native of Berlin, and their mother, Martha Mochi, is from the Rhineland. Leopold Baer started his career as a hand-cutter of brass engravings, at which he became internationally recognized as an expert. But being a businessman as well as an artist, he gave up hand-cutting when photo engraving came in, and eventually established the Standard Photo Engraving Company, Chicago. His wife is of notable accomplishment in music, so that Martin and George Baer grew up in an atmosphere of art and culture.

 

The boys, showing a ready talent for drawing, entered their father’s business as commercial designers. However, they developed an ambition as well as a will of their own, turned “ethical,” went to Paris and Munich to study “art” instead of “craft,” and devoted their time to the easel instead of the draftsman’s board. Leopold Baer, though proud of their accomplishment, never quite forgave his sons for not carrying on his own business.

 

In World War days when “modernism” was rampant in Chicago, following the Armory show, the Baer brothers were in the forefront of the fray. At that time, “modernism” in art was regarded as suspicious of “radicalism.” In politics, and the Baer’s were among several artists who had brushes with the authorities.

 

Following the war, they went abroad to continue their studies, and it was in 1923 they made their memorable trip to Algeria, where they stayed for three years, emerging for shows at Durand-Ruel’s in Paris and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Those shows established them as painters to be reckoned with, in both France and the United States.

 

Martin is the “poet” of the two. George is more practical in worldly affairs.