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Jack Baron

(1926 - 2005 )


Jack Baron - About the ArtistJack Baron, one of Florida's foremost folk artists whose pixie-like wit permeated his attitude toward life as well as his art, past away in 2005 at the age of 78.
During the 25 years he spent in Key West, he often could be found in his Duval Square gallery and studio working on the latest of more than 4000 colorful paintings, wood sculptures and tapestries or trading stories with his many friends who often dropped by to chat.

Locals as well as visitors appreciated and bought his clever paintings of Key West poultry and pets, especially the cats, but his subject matter ranged from angels to circus performers to the island denizens of the island. His favorites were women with dark eggplant skin, red lips and glamorous gowns and headgear. Baron's paintings earned him a reference in Betty Carol Seller's definitive art history volume, 20th Century American Folk, Self-Taught and Outsider Art, alongside Key West's other folk art genius Mario Sanchez. One of his paintings is included in the art tome, “Imaging The Word” along with such other notable paintings as Pablo Picasso's Guernica.

Baron moved to Key West in 1977 with lifetime partner Robert Burton and in 1979 staged his first show where he sold 30 pieces. Since that time he turned out an amazing number of finely crafted paintings, each one embodying his characteristic lighthearted, deceptively simple style marked by bright colors and his own brand of pointillism.
Jack Baron was one of the most prolific painters in the Keys, said Claudia Pennington, executive director of the Key West Art & Historical Society to which Baron pledged his valuable collection of needlepoint tapestries that he began creating in the mid 1980s.
Baron once mused that he would like to create as many works of art as Picasso's lifetime production of 6000. "Picasso started at age 18. I started in my 40s and so far I've done more than 4000, most which have sold, thank God," he said.

It probably was Baron's child-like naiveté accented by an impish humor that made his art so appealing to both souvenir-searching tourists and art lovers," said Pennington. "There is an overpowering sense of joy, that seems to glaze many of his works, not unlike the gold leaf he sometimes incorporated into them."

Although his style was simple and his subject matter commonplace, Baron considered himself a serious artist. Among his important works is a painting entitled “The Apple,” a beautifully precise painting of the Adam and Eve myth, which he later developed into a life-size tapestry. The painting depicts the classic couple, entangled in the limbs of a tree bearing the red fruit. The first man and woman are innocent beings with deep aubergine skin, bright eyes and carmine lips. Even the red-spotted snake, helixed around the tree, seems unthreatening and part of a natural order. The Apple exhibits many of Baron's particular conceits, such as the Haitian style color scheme and the use of pointillism, developed by Van Gogh and Seurat, but also used by Australian aboriginals. Of course the paintings most characteristic of "Baronism" is a Key West cat, perched wide-eyed in the lower right-hand corner.

A native of Rockaway Beach in the New York borough of Queens, Baron joined the Navy in 1944 and worked as a corpsman. After the war he finished college at New York University with a degree in business science and found good work as a salesman selling displays for department stores and other businesses. That kept him working close to a whole studio of artists where he was exposed to much of what they did. Though he sold their commercial work, he never attempted any of it himself, preferring to study choreography as his artistic outlet.

After Burton, his partner of 52 years, gave him a set of acrylic paints as a birthday gift, Baron began by painting portraits of the people he saw outside waiting at the bus stop.
Baron probably never would have progressed from being just an amateur dabbler if Marion Stevens hadn't seen a few of his works in the store and bought them all. Stevens, a promoter of Haitian and other art, recognized Baron as a talented primitive. She set up a show for him and sent out invitations. He sold all 30 of his works.

"My whole life changed," Baron said. "I loved painting and people wanted to buy it. It was good combination." An indefatigable worker, Baron once said he considered them his children that were going to good homes.

Gingerbread Square Gallery is proud to present this personal collection of Jack Baron’s work.


© 2009 Gingerbread Square Gallery