By Rachel Baron written for his Posthumous Exhibition in Bulawayo
Marshall Philip Baron was born on the 3rd August 1934 in Bulawayo Rhodesia. His parents were Rachel & Ben Baron to whom subsequently were born three daughters, Merle Saone & Beverly.
Marshall was a beautiful baby and little boy, huge blue eyes and a most engaging smile. Heshowed an unusual delight in music from an early age and at a mere 18 months old he could select any record he wanted from his small collection to play on his little gramophone.
Marshall was very intelligent and took a lively interest in everything around him.
At the age of nine he together with a friend Robyn Mayers formed a Musical Appreciation Club among their small friends. They used to meet twice a week in the evenings and play classical record, after they had given a talk to the group on their life and work of the composer to be heard. The musical group was very enthusiastic and the participants learnt to love and appreciate classical music. The club continued for several years.
When Marshall was about eleven he suddenly began to paint, always with classical music playing which inspired his brush. For several years he painted trees, mountains and quaint Cape-type houses, representational paintings demonstrating his love of surrounding nature.
Marshall matriculated with distinction at the early age of 15 years. As his parents felt that he was too young to go to university they kept him at Milton Senior School another two years at the end of which he won a Beit Scholarship.
Thereafter he went to the University of Cape Town to Residence. On his own choice he took his B.A.LLB. degrees and thus was at U.C.T. for five years. He soon showed his compassion for and understanding of the suffering and lack of privileges of the underdog. He was on the Students’ Council, was Chairman of NUSAS and taught African and Colored children at night. He became an ardent opponent of racialism, oppression and injustice, characteristics that dominated his life throughout.
Marshall was possessed of a magnetic charisma which affected all who met and knew him. With his expressive eyes and wondrous smile no one could resist his charm. Add to this an irresistible sense of humor, a deep empathy, understanding and intelligence and Marshall had a myriad of friends.
His kindness and help was bestowed on all who needed them and his friendship enriched the lives of many.
Marshall was a profound student of philosophy and the arts. He was a proud and loving Jew and indeed many of his paintings reflect his Jewish heritage.
It was while he was at university that the form of his paintings underwent changes. Firstly he cultivated an impressionist style which was extremely attractive. However this rapidly gave way to the abstract form he painted for the rest of his short life.
The late Ben Shahn, that foremost American artist of world renown, was a first cousin of Marshall’s father Ben. He was most impressed with Marshall’s artistic talent and three times invited him and gave him a scholarship to the Annual Artists’ School at Skowhegan in Maine America which Shahn and other leading artists organized for young talent. This opportunity to work among the young student artists of America and to be taught and assessed by world famous artists was to profoundly affect Marshall’s paintings. They became more and more abstract, skillfully executed with expertise, and wholly reflective of the 20th century trends interwoven with modern thought.
Marshall was avant garde in his artistic creativity and within the narrow confines of landlocked Rhodesia his artistic talent was little understood or appreciated here, at first. However his tenacity and courage in maintaining his media despite ignorant criticism won through and after several Rhodesian and South African exhibitions Marshall’s beautiful paintings were acclaimed.
As the second great love of his life was music which permeated every free moment of his, it is no wonder that his artistic creatively derived its inspiration from classical music. He could only paint when his Hi-Fi radiated the music of the great masters.
Marshall was an outstanding lawyer, and his legal activities were permeated throughout by his immense compassion and ability to help others. He was an excellent public speaker and his writings were unique.
He was a devoted son, brother and uncle and could never bring himself to live in any other country but Rhodesia although he travelled much. He always returned to his family and clung to his roots, despite his very liberal advanced ideas on society and life.
Had Marshall lived in a bigger country, say in America which he loved to visit there is no doubtthat he would have become world famous in the abstract mode. His paintings are extraordinarily beautiful and expertly constructed, his love of huge canvasses was imbued in him at Skowhegan, a medium of expression which gave satisfaction to his profound philosophies. Marshall’s skillful blending of colours, his rhythmic sweeps of his brush, his love of life and breadth of vision are all reflected in his outstanding canvasses.
When Marshall Baron died suddenly at the tender age of 42, not only was his loss a terrible blow to his family, but Rhodesia lost a most talented young man, a music critic of exceptional knowledge, an artist of rare ability, a humanitarian and liberal whose compassion was a source of help and comfort to many of all races and colors and an excellent legal brain.