Auburn News

Mixed Media : John Baeder’s Road Well Taken

By March 9, 2016 No Comments
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John Baeder

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John Baeder’s Road Well Taken, a monograph by Jay Williams (Vendome Press, 2015), firmly establishes Baeder ‘60 as one of the 20th century’s most important painters. Williams couches Baeder’s artistic quest as a search to discover American identity and reveal the American scene as metaphor. Baeder’s most iconic paintings portray diners and small-town life along the backroads of America.

Baeder was featured in the Summer 2008 issue of Auburn Magazine.

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Diners are to John Baeder what the Egyptian pyramids are to archaeologists: life-sized time capsules full of mid-century artifacts and the greasy footprints of humans whose lives once intersected over coffee mugs and slabs of meatloaf.

“I saw them as temples of a lost civilization,” Baeder recalls of his initial fascination for America’s roadside short-order restaurants. His passion first began to stir at the counter of Atlanta’s legendary Majestic Diner in 1944. He was 5 years old. “I ate in them, attracted to their intimacy, the cacophony of the staff and patrons, especially the dance choreography of the grill men.

“I’d always sit at counters and watch, mesmerized by the scenes being played out.”

After studying art at Auburn University in the late 1950s and serving a 12-year stint as an advertising agency art director, Baeder quit his corporate job and began painstakingly chronicling the nation’s lunch counters in oil and watercolor, on canvas and paper, in all their ordinary glory.

One eatery not represented among Baeder’s paintings is Auburn’s long-gone Roy’s Diner, once located across the street from the Auburn Theater. Roy’s was housed in a prefabricated building manufactured by the Valentine company of Wichita, Kansas, circa 1947. Valentine diners typically boasted a short counter and a few small booths that could be handily managed by single cook.

“Roy had a specialty of the house: I called it a mystery meat sandwich; he called it a steak sandwich. I think it was fried pork,” Baeder says. “It was a magical feast for a teenager not used to such fare.”

While art historians generally characterize Baeder as a “photorealist”—one who paints a scene exactly as represented in a photograph—he thinks of himself simply as a cultural preservationist.

“The diner is not just a sentimental image I chose,” says Baeder of his lifelong muse. “It chose me.”

Want to know more? Visit johnbaeder.com.

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GALLERY


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All artwork contained on this page is Copyright © 1973-2016 John Baeder.
Reproduction, including electronic download, is by permission of the artist only.

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