Simon Paul Baus
- Marion County
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Simon Baus lived and worked in Indiana throughout his long, respected career. As a member of the Irvington Group of artists, he became known for his deft, sympathetic portraits that captured the subject’s character, giving frequent demonstrations that drew large crowds to exhibition rooms and lecture halls. Baus would go on to establish himself as one of the leading Hoosier portraitists and landscape artists of his era.
Baus showed early promise of his artistic gifts while a student of Otto Stark at Emmerich Manual Tech High School in Indianapolis. In 1909, Baus won his first art award, the Wanamaker Prize, given to the best painting done by an American art student. In the evenings, he took classes from two other Hoosier Group greats, William Forsyth and J. Ottis Adams, at the newly formed John Herron Art Institute.
Despite his talent, Baus had hoped to study engineering at Purdue University. When his father died around the time he was to graduate from high school, Baus abandoned college plans and headed into the workforce instead, first as a machinist at Atlas Engine Works then as a postal clerk, where he worked for forty-five years. In 1911, Baus married Edith Reed, a fellow Herron student. He quickly established himself in art and social circles in the city, and his studio on the fifth floor of the Union Trust Building long served as a hub. The Herron Art Institute had held classes there when he and Edith were students. Now, artists such as John Hardrick and Wayman Adams gathered to paint with Baus. The artist helped found the Indiana Artists Club there in 1917. In later years, Carl Graf, Paul Hadley, and Paul Keiser shared building space on the floor, as did celebrated Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Baus worked out of the Union Trust studio until city improvements forced him to move in 1949.
In 1914, Baus took part in one of the most ambitious public art projects undertaken by Indiana artists in the twentieth century: the mural decoration of the children’s wards at the City Hospital in Indianapolis – a thirteen-month civic endeavor supervised by William Forsyth. Together with fourteen of Indiana’s most notable artists of the day, Baus helped create a total of 33 murals for house painters’ wages. For his part, Baus chose urban children in everyday clothing as models. Today, much of the art has deteriorated but conservators are working to restore what remains.
[Rosa, Lindsay. “Saving the 100-Year-Old Walls at Wishard.” Nuvo, September 9, 2015; Wilkins, Lloyd K. “Little Known Murals Among Finest Art in State.” Indianapolis Star, January 7, 1940, p. 1,2. Burnett, Mary, Art and Artists of Indiana, 1921, p. 247]
Baus and his wife Edith began to raise three children during this period: Paul, Florence, and Carolyn. The Baus family proved to be a font of inspiration and artistic success to the artist. His 1923 portrait of Edith won the Indiana State Fair Prize in Portraits that year and the inaugural Hoosier Salon Portrait in Oil Prize two years later. His portrait of Florence brought even greater acclaim, meriting an award at the prestigious American Artist’s Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1925. And his 1948 depiction of four-month-old granddaughter Veronica, in “Angel Without Wings,” won the 1948 Hoosier Salon Portrait in Oil Prize.
As a sought-after portraitist, Baus painted many prominent Hoosiers during his lifetime – from his first teachers and friends – the members of the Hoosier Group – to Governors, civic, and cultural leaders. Baus canvasses hang at museums, libraries, and government buildings around the state.
While Baus garnered the most renown for his portraits, he also received steady recognition for his landscapes and still lifes. In the 1920s, regular trips to Brown County inspired award-winning landscapes such as “Autumn.” He returned from travels to New Mexico with paintings and fresh inspiration for vibrant Pueblo market scenes, mountainscapes, and flowers.
Baus distinguished himself wherever he exhibited. After the impressive honorable mention from the Chicago Art Institute in 1925 came decades of awards from the Hoosier Salon, the Indiana State Fair, the Indiana Artists Club, and others. From the first Hoosier Salon in 1925 through 1964, when Baus turned eighty-two, he presented sixty-nine paintings at thirty-eight exhibits, winning nine distinctions. [A Grand Tradition: The Art and Artists of the Hoosier Salon, 1925-1990 by Judith Vale Newton and Carol Weiss] In 1921, he received the Dudley Foulke Prize from the Richmond Art Association for his “Autumn Still Life.” That same year, the John Herron Art Association awarded Baus an award for his recent portrait of T.C. Steele. He twice won the Indiana Art Club prize for portraits. He exhibited each year at the Indiana State Fair, earning distinctions and a solid reputation.
Of Baus’s style, the longtime Indianapolis Star art critic Lucille Morehouse once described it as “realism slightly tinctured” [Morehouse, Lucille, Indianapolis Star, December 17, 1944. P. 26.] While his portraits reflected the subject’s personality through the use of darker tones and a rich surface texture, he favored a high key and broad brush strokes for his landscapes. Referring to a group of Autumn landscapes Baus painted in Brown County, Morehouse commented:
“With a sensitive feeling for color and an ability to express this sensitiveness on canvas without resorting to the usual slap-dash and violence of contrast when Indiana woodlands are at the peak of autumn color, Baus paints several Hoosier scenes with a color restraint that is gratifying.”
[Indianapolis Star, May 22, 1949, p. 60.]
While the Irvington and Hoosier Groups helped launch Baus’s career, by the late 1940s, a new group of artists had emerged. In 1946, Baus joined a younger circle of artists known as The Twenty Club, a group of Indiana artists returning from World War II who did not yet carry the heft to mount their own exhibitions. While the term The Twenty originally referred to a late 19th century Belgian group of modernist painters, sculptors, and writers, the Indiana iteration sought primarily to promote exhibiting opportunities in their own style. Membership, first limited to twenty, expanded to allow more established artists such as Baus, and included Harry Davis, Gordon and Betty Mess, Miriam Kaeser, Robert Selby, Charles Yaeger, Louis Bonsib, and Kenneth Reeve, among others. [Indianapolis Star, March 25, 1956, p. 3, Section 6.]
Baus continued to participate actively in the Portfolio and Indiana Artists Club, and exhibited regularly at the Indiana State Fair and Hoosier Salons. After his wife died in 1954, student became teacher, as he joined the faculty of the Indianapolis Art League in 1955 and began serving as a juror at exhibitions around the state. In 1966, Baus moved to Kent, Ohio where his son Paul, himself an accomplished artist, sculptor and professor at Kent State University, lived. He died three years later.
The Baus legacy lives on in his rich body of figures and landscapes whose charm and spontaneity reflect a man of equal character. He will take his place as one of Indiana’s great portrait and landscape artists of the 20th century.
[Below is Fine Estate’s initial Baus biography]
Simon Baus was a member of the Irvington Group — a loose assembly of about 17 artists who lived in Irvington (on Indianapolis’ east side) and taught at Herron Art School.
Baus painted landscapes, still lifes and oils and was known for painting at least one Indiana governor, Emmett Forrest Branch in 1927.
From Flora Lauter, “Indiana Artists (Active)”, 1941, Samuel R. Guard @Co. Inc Printers, Spencer, IND.
A native of Indianapolis, Simon P. Baus attended the Herron Art School under J. Otis Adams and William Forsyth, also was a student of Otto Stark’s. Charter Member of the Indiana Artists Club, Member of the Indianapolis Art Association and Portfolio Club. Mr. Baus is best known for his portraiture but a visit to his studio will show beautiful still-lifes and andscapes. He has received numerous awards. The First Wanamaker Prize, 1909: J. I. Holcomb Prize, 1919: Indianapolis Art Association Award, 1921: Foulke Prize, Richmond: Studebaker Prize, Hoosier Salon: also Griffith and Kittle Prize, besides the Reynolds Prize at the Summer Hoosier Salon: many other awards at the Indiana State Fair. Represented in the Herron Art Museum: Richmond Art Gallery: State House collection of Governors and private collections. His portraits of Grace Julian Clarke, Senator James E. Watson, Ferdinand Schaeffer and Dr. F.S.C. Wicks attracted much attention at exhibitions.