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Gallery View: Baum salutes Baum; Portraits of the artist’s grandson as a young man

“Of Portraiture & Polio: A Tribute Exhibition In Memory of David Emerson Baum,” curated by David’s cousin, Holly Ives Harter, continues through Feb. 4, Rodale Family Gallery, The Baum School of Art, Allentown.

The exhibit features portraits by Baum School of Art founder Walter Emerson Baum of his grandson David. The paintings, rendered mostly in oil, trace the youth’s development from “towheaded” toddler to young man bravely battling a disability.

Born in 1935, the only child of Bert and Julia Baum, David Baum became close to his artist grandfather after being diagnosed with polio at age 3. While accompanying the elder Baum, he often served as a model. The portraits capture David Baum from just before he was stricken in 1937 until he reached age 19 when his grandfather died in July 1956.

“Walter Baum was working on it the night he passed away,” says Harter concerning “David, A Final Work” (1956; oil on board, 24.75 in. x 31 in.). “David saved it,” Harter says. “It was very sentimental to him for obvious reasons.”

The unfinished work is displayed on Walter Baum’s easel, bequeathed to him from his mentor, William B. T. Trego (1858-1909). Trego, a painter of military themes, is best known for his iconic “The March to Valley Forge.” The easel was used by several descendants of Baum after his death.

In 2021, while discussing with her cousin a Bill Gates interview about a book release and the billionaire’s commitment to eradicating polio, Harter suggested, “We should do an art show with your portraits and talk about polio.” David Baum agreed.

With a painter grandpa and art-collector father, David Baum became a custom picture-framer after graduating from high school. He developed an interest in photography and collected cameras. David Baum became adept with new technology. “He was a very bright guy, very well-read,” Harter says.

Although he worked hard to overcome the crippling effects of polio while young, David Baum later rebelled against a daily regimen of exercise and self-care. On display with the portraits are his polio shoes, walker and suspenders. The disease shortened one of his arms and legs.

Harter was David Baum’s caregiver and helped him to move into an assisted-living facility. She smiled as she reminisced about the two of them sorting through accumulated artwork and family memorabilia while chatting and eating pizza.

David Baum was nicknamed “The Mayor” at Lutheran Community at Telford. “He would always zip down and greet you when you walked into the facility,” says Harter.

David Baum died in June 2021. He was 86.

The Baum School of Art established the David Emerson Baum Memorial Scholarship Fund in his honor.

Calling herself an “art enthusiast,” Harter’s career is in marketing, entertainment business and web concept management. She is a member of the Baum School Board of Trustees. Her mother was Ellen Grim Harter, an award-winning oil paint fine artist.

“The Bethlehem Palette Club Plein Air Exhibition,” across the lobby in the David E. Rodale Gallery at the Baum School of Art, features landscapes by Palette Club members, also through Feb. 4.

David E. Rodale and Rodale Family Galleries, The Baum School of Art, 510 W. Linden St., Allentown. Gallery hours: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. Tuesday - Thursday, 9 am. - 3 p.m. Friday - Saturday, closed Sunday. 610-433-0032; https://www.baumschool.org/

“Gallery View” is a column about artists, exhibitions and galleries. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

PRESS PHOTO BY ED COURRIER Baum School of Art “Of Portraiture & Polio: A Tribute Exhibition In Memory of David Emerson Baum” Curator Holly Harter with Walter Emerson Baum's painting, “David, A Final Work” (1956; oil on board, 24.75 in. x 31 in.), displayed on the artist's easel.