Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bryant Baker :: The Pioneer Woman, 1927

Bronze, 17 ¼"
Location: E.L. Wiegand Gallery

Bryant Baker was born in England in 1881. He was the supervisor of sculpting at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London until 1913 when he emigrated to the United States. He spent the war years in the U.S. Army, manufacturing sculptural prosthetics and casts for wounded soldiers. He became a U.S. citizen and lived in New York City until his death in 1970.
The small bronze Pioneer Woman in the E.L. Wiegand collection was a model for a competition. Twelve artists were asked by Oklahoma oilman E.W. Marland to sculpt their versions of a pioneer woman. The sculptures were sent on a tour of the U.S., with a public vote at each of their stops. Eventually 750,000 people cast votes. Baker’s sculpture was the favorite, and a seventeen-foot bronze version of the Wiegand maquette, mounted on a thirteen foot limestone pyramid, was unveiled in 1930 in Ponca City, Oklahoma. The unveiling was a grand occasion, with Will Rogers acting as emcee. Forty thousand people attended. After Baker’s death the Ponca City bought the contents of his studio and installed them in the Marland Mansion Museum.
Note prepared by Kathleen Durham and Lois Smalley.