Marshall Baron & Peter Fletcher Exhibition
Steven Williams, from the catalogue of a joint exhibition of paintings by Marshall Baron & Peter Fletcher, Bulawayo Art Gallery, 20th August – 7th September, 1986
The first thing that strikes one about the large Baron abstracts is their boldness, not only their heroic scale, but also their sense of color and design. But to me it is their painterly qualities that impress most. Few painters anywhere are capable of the sheer looseness of paint application that Marshall achieved. Hs canvases combine the marks and drips of the painting process in an animated and cohesive way.
But any discussion of formal values becomes meaningless if not placed within a social context. Marshall never lived to see an independent Zimbabwe. He lived and worked in Rhodesia, a society which produced discriminatory laws and policies against which he spent his life fighting.
As a student in Cape Town, Marshall first demonstrated his humanitarian concerns during his tenure as principal of a night school in Retreat which ran extra-mural classes for working blacks. He was later to become chairperson of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). After graduation Marshall carried the struggle for a more egalitarian society into the law courts as a practicing lawyer. At the same time, Marshall was playing an active role in the liberal Central African Party and Centre Party. In the 1974 General Election Marshall stood as an independent candidate for the Matobo constitutency.
All of these influences and convictions found an outlet in his vast panoramas. His work is both intellectual and highly articulate. Not only do the paintings reflect a commitment to humanitarian concerns, but they also reveal a profound love of music. His canvases exude a cultural mix of Africa, Europe and North America.
Marshall’s humility and courage, and the frustration from living in a society divided by color are the content of his work. His paintings fused a complex of emotions and events, and expressed them as only non-figurative painting is capable of doing.
Louis Bolze, Chairman, Bulawayo Art Gallery Committee, an extract from a ‘Tribute’, in the catalogue of a joint exhibition of paintings by Marshall Baron & Peter Fletcher, Bulawayo Art Gallery, 20th August – 7th September, 1986
“…Marshall Baron, whose death in 1977 at the age of 43 robbed us of a talented and highly cultured person, was noted for his big, bold and colorful abstracts. A lawyer by profession, was in a cultural sense a full man, eloquently articulate in the realms of art, music and literature. He is especially remembered for the excellence of his music critiques which featured regularly in The Bulawayo Chronicle and for the erudite and instructive talks on modern art movements which he presented in the Bulawayo Art Gallery after visits to the United States where, on several occasions, he spent three months at the annual art school of Skowhegan in Maine. Here he rubbed shoulders with the foremost American moderns who recognized and applauded his artistic talents.
Marshall was sensitively attuned to the turbulent times in which he lived and worked, and his restless pictures may be said to reflect the troubled days of the 1960’s and 1970’s with their political pressures and tensions. He always found solace in his music which was an essential ingredient of his painting…..”