THE BAER BROTHERS IN THE INTERNATIONAL EYE
BY C. J. BULLIET
EQUALLY AT HOME in Munich, Paris, North Africa, and their native Chicago, Martin and George Baer have attained an international outlook and ease in painting, difficult apparently, for our American artists to achieve.
Paris is the mighty maelstrom toward which the artists of all the world have gravitated for the past century. The Spaniard, Picasso, becomes as much a Parisian as the Frenchman Matisse, and so does the Italian, Modigliani, and the Dutchman, Van Gogh. The English do not readily assimilate, nor do Americans for instance, Whistler and Sargent. They participate without becoming integrally a part.
Martin and George Baer are violating the rule. Associated with the group that looked to the late Modigliani for leadership, these two Chicago young men have caught the international spirit the spirit that makes contemporary Parisian art the brilliant manifestation of world achievement.
The Baer brothers have evolved something that is recognised in France and America as distinctively “Baer.”
It is easy to trace their idols and enthusiasms Cezanne, El Greco, Cranach, and more lately, Kokoschka. Traces of them all can be discovered in their canvases.
But all such influences are offset by the “Baer” motif the something that is distinctively their own, that springs out of their inner consciousness and is readily recognizable in everything they paint.
Important galleries like the Paris establishment of Durand’Ruel and the Galerie Jeune Peinture, have thought so well of this “Baer” manifestation as to stage exhibitions of their work.
The Baers are the sons of Leopold Baer of Chicago, and it was his faith in them that enabled them to study in the best ateliers of Munich and Paris, and later plunge into the outskirts of the Sahara desert in North Africa, where they did the first series of paintings that brought them into the international eye. It was these canvases that Durand-Ruel exhibited in the spring of 1926, and that were brought later to America, and shown at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Nearly everything the brothers had painted were sold in these two shows, and with the proceeds they went back to the Sahara desert, where they did a second series, accepted by the Galerie Jeune Peinture, Paris, for exhibition in May, 1928, and later brought to America for a transcontinental tour.
The brothers found the Algerians as much to their artistic liking as Gauguin found the Tahitians. They looked upon them with a lively, leavening curiosity, and transferred them quivering to their canvases the dancing girls, swaying to barbaric music; the camel drivers, ready to start for their long journeys across the Sahara; street vendors, beggars, women of the African demi-monde, and even exalted ladies of the Moslem aristocracy. Often they had to use much tact to secure their models, owing to Mohammed’s prohibition, still respected if not always obeyed, against the portraying of the human face and body an offshoot of the old Mosaic commandment against the making of “graven images.”
The Baers had their early training in “Impressionism,” and their work in Munich was expert in the method of the reigning “academy.” It was after they went to Paris and became associated with the young group around Modigliani that they sensed the new freedom. Their German ancestry and their Munich training had given them a Germanic background which they have been wise in not wholly sacrificing in their work persists the idolatry for Cranach, and when they came only recently to see the light as manifested in Kokoschka, this German strain was found to fit.
Still in the early enthusiasm of youth, these brothers give promise of great things. Already their achievement has been notable, and it is gratifying to observe a marked improvement in the 1928 canvases over those of 1926 a loosening up of their technique, and a greater spontaneity in spirit.
The Baers are remarkable in their artistic twinship. Constantly together, they react on each other, and their painting shows twin progress. They resemble, in this respect, those literary brothers, the Goncourts.
Translated from French by Jeanne S. de LaBarthe