These diaries, which have never before been published, provide an astonishing record of the 901 oil paintings Baker produced over 35 years of his life.
Almost every single work painted by him is recorded (Mulraine only knows of one picture that he cannot trace). The entry number, date, location depicted and materials used are all noted alongside exhibition and sale details.
Furthermore, the artist made small illustrations to accompany each entry – greatly aiding the identification process.
Matching up any given painting to a diary entry is also helped by the fact that Baker signed and dated most of his works, and often inscribed the verso with the subject together with the diary number (the number can sometimes be found on the inside of the stretcher).
Requests for information
Since the website went live, Mulraine has received contact from six or seven auction houses, dealers and owners hoping to find out more about particular paintings.
He told ATG that he is always happy to assist with information, including, for example, one enquiry he received from the US regarding a landscape watercolour.
A picture he was recently asked to trace was a 5½ x 9½in (14 x 24cm) oil on oak panel of a harvest scene outside Warwick that came up at auctioneers Gildings of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, consigned from a local client.
Signed and dated 1857 on the verso, Mulraine matched it with No.574 in Baker’s diary – appearing in the third of the five volumes with the title noted as Distant view of Warwick.
He deemed it a decent example of his work and, at the auction on September 5, it duly attracted good competition against a £300-500 estimate.
It was eventually knocked down at £950 (plus 15% buyer’s premium). Mulraine felt that it probably made the ‘right’ price. Indeed, the demand that emerged followed notable bidding on two other Baker works sold in the last few months.
A larger and earlier 1845 view of fisherman at a rocky pool made £1100 against a £700-900 estimate at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in July, and a painting of cattle grazing from 1840 sold for £1350 at Halls in June (guide: £120-180).
In general, works by Baker tend to appear at auction at a rate of about one a month, with good examples making up to £2000. Mulraine told ATG that he felt that demand for the best examples had held up relatively well, in spite of difficulties in the market for Victorian landscapes.
He himself bought his first work by the artist after seeing an exhibition of Baker’s paintings at Leamington Art Gallery and Museum in the 1990s, and has remained fascinated by his work ever since.
Mulraine’s website can be found below, and anyone who owns or know of the whereabouts of a painting by Baker and would like it to be included on the website can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.