1849 - 1939
Historical Rhode Island artist
Little is known about the life of Elijah Baxter prior to 1870, other than he was born in Hyannis, Massachusetts. His father was a musician, and it is most probable that Elijah came to Providence at a young age. At the age of 21, when he embarked on his art career, he received letters of introduction from the Secretary of State and Governor of Rhode Island, and the Mayor of Providence, which suggests that his family was well regarded in the Providence community. Baxter went to Europe for his art training, studying under Van Lerins, Van Luppen and Jacobs at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. After three years of training, Baxter returned to Providence and established his studio in the Wayland Building.
Baxter had a very successful career as a painter of marine and coastal scenes. Early in his career he had the great fortune to be invited by Henry Clewes, a wealthy art patron, to set up a studio on his estate, Spouting Rock, in Newport. The artist excelled, achieving recognition in New England by capturing a medal at the Boston Fifteenth Annual Exhibition in 1878. His work was known for its "originality of design and individuality of color."
landscapes were uncharacteristically not of the popular Barbizon mode
employed by most Providence artists. Instead, he painted with
a lighter palette, suggesting a vague anticipation of impressionism.
to painting was greatly admired by fellow artist S.R. Burleigh and
the noted Providence art patron Issac Bates. He exhibited at the Boston
Art Clubs, The National Academy of Design, and the Boston Museum of
Fine Arts. Ten years before his death in 1939, Baxter won the Semi-Centennial
Prize for the best oil painting at the Providence Art Club. The canvas, "Fog
Threatens", was described as " a sincerely and solidly painted
scene in which Mr. Baxter caught the spirit of a threatening day." The
piece is now owned by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art.
Upon Baxter's capturing the prize in 1929, S.R. Burleigh jotted the following
note of praise to the artist:
"My dear Baxter, Congratulations on getting the Art Club Prize. It would seem that the old guard has never surrendered nor died!"