Fort Wayne, IN
Widely considered to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, John Baeder is best-known for his hyperrealist paintings that made the diner the subject of serious art books and historic preservation efforts. While Baeder was almost single-handedly responsible for the diner craze of the late 1970s through the 1990s, he has been and is much more than a “diner painter,” as his new exhibition at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art reveals.
This exhibition taps into Baeder’s love of historical military aircraft with nearly 40 large- scale paintings that, although created with Baeder’s trademark realistic style, are not simply paintings of photographs. Baeder has succeeded in painting from photographs while simultaneously stimulating his and his viewers' imaginations. Because he sees his reference photographs as "notes," in the same way that a writer might refer to real-world experience, he never feels compelled to slavishly imitate their visual characteristics.
Now in his mid-seventies, John Baeder continues his artistic journey with undiminished excitement. After more than four decades as a painter, he still retains a childlike sense of wonderment. Baeder is a man whose ardent interests were formed early and have remained constant. “I am going back to images that lit up my imagination in my youth,” Baeder explains. "When I was a kid, I loved old military aircraft. I still do.”
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, the 80-page exhibition catalog, John Baeder Takes Wing on a Higher Road, features 44 illustrations of his historic aircraft series that blossomed from April 2014 to the present. The catalog includes an essay by John on his "beginnings," plus my curatorial essay and an introduction by Director, Charles Martin. The love affair with iconic airplanes that started when John was a young kid never went away. Based on a treasured collection of rare photographs from his teenage years, the aircraft series serves a documentary purpose while transcending its photographic source material through the painterly use of 'black and white' brushwork, or more accurately, multiple tonal hues of sepia. John has selected as subjects some of the most beautiful planes ever designed, such as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, making us see their forms as modern sculpture. Anyone who enjoys studying the history of America in the 1930s and 1940s will love these paintings: they evoke the adventurous spirit of that bygone era." Jay Williams