1880-1959
Country Byways

Gouache on paper, signed lower left
Image size: 17 x 21 inches (43 x 53 1/2 cm)
Contemporary gilded oak frame

 

Charles Henry Collins Baker was an English painter and art historian.

Baker was born in Ilminster, Somerset, the son of John Collins Baker and Fanny Henrietta Remmet. He was educated in Berkhamsted and the Royal Academy Schools.

A landscape painter at the beginning of his career, he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1907 and at the New English Art Club in 1909–16; from 1921 to 1925 he was the club’s honorary secretary. In 1911 he became the art critic for the Saturday Review, succeeding D. S. MacColl, and became an assistant and secretary to Sir Charles Holroyd, Director of the National Gallery. While working at the Gallery he befriended E. M. Forster, who was working there as a cataloguer and guard.

In 1912 Collins Baker wrote Lely and the Stuart Portrait Painters, considered to be his most important book; Ellis Waterhouse called it the “last great scholarly monument” of “the last great age of the self-taught scholar in England, before it was permissible to call oneself an art historian”. From 1914 he held the post of Keeper of the National Gallery, and was retained when Charles Holmes succeeded Holroyd as Director in 1916. Collins Baker and Holroyd have been described as the “driving forces of the Gallery” of that period.

 From 1928 he took on the position of Surveyor of the King’s Pictures. Oliver Millar, a later holder of the post, described him as “a nice and kind man, but untrained in scholarly method.” He was a senior research associate in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, from 1932 to 1949.

He died at his home in Finchley, Middlesex, in 1959.