By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Hyde Park resident Jay Mulberry will present the artwork of Cyrus Leroy Baldridge Sunday, Dec. 7, at the Hyde Park Historical Society.
“I’ve been trying to open up a space for him to be recognized,” Mulberry said of the illustrator and oil painter. “He was very prominent but left the art scene early and his name was lost.”
At age 10, Baldridge entered the Chicago School of Illustration where he was the youngest — by a dozen years —among the students of Frank Holme, the foremost illustrator of his day. The Alton, N.Y., native was admitted to the University of Chicago in 1907, working his way through school by drawing signs for campus events. During his time at the university he became a campus leader, voted most likely to succeed and Grand Marshal. He graduated in 1911.
When World War I began, Baldridge traveled through occupied Belgium and France as a war correspondent and illustrator. During his service in the National Guard he was called to serve in Mexico, where he co-founded the newspaper Stars and Stripes for which he was the chief artist. In 1920 Baldridge married writer Caroline Singer. The couple built a house in Harmon, N.Y., then traveled the world. During their travels they produced three books about their adventures in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The couple decided to leave their fast-paced life in New York behind and settle in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was in Santa Fe that Mulberry met Baldridge.
“We moved in next door to him when we moved to Santa Fe,” Mulberry said. “Cyrus was a role model for me and my brothers.”
Mulberry said only one of his brothers, Gary, took art lessons from Baldridge but “he taught me how to be a man.”
“Cyrus was the most principled, decent and honorable man I ever knew,” Mulberry said. “What I admire in him is that he was absolutely straight in his principles. He didn’t pick fights but he stood his ground for the socialist views he believed in.”
Mulberry said, “Way before the Civil Rights [movement] he was in support of African Americans.”
“He went to Africa because he was interested in African American life as it came from Africa,” Mulberry said.
As an artist, Mulberry said, Baldridge created illustrations of people all over the world with elegance and respect, which is why many people were drawn to his work.
Although Baldridge left the New York art scene, he remained vigorous and involved himself in the Santa Fe art scene. It was in Santa Fe that Baldridge began creating oil paintings. By that time he was no longer dependent on selling his art to live and only sold his work upon request.
When Baldridge’s wife died he and Mulberry’s mother, a divorcee, became close friends. When Baldridge ended his own life in 1977 the Mulberry family inherited his Santa Fe home.
Some of Baldridge’s work is still in the Santa Fe home as well as in Mulberry’s Hyde Park home but the majority of his work can be found in museums including the Smart Museum of Art, the Art Museum of New Mexico, Fisk University, University of Wyoming and the Smithsonian.
On Dec. 7 the room at Hyde Park Historical Society, 5529 S. Lake Park Ave., will be decorated with large blow-ups of Baldridge’s illustrations and paintings. There will be door prizes and a surprise offering of refreshments including a favorite treat of Baldridge’s.