Governor of Tennessee names John Baeder Distinguished Artist

Newly finished Painting by John Baeder, Bob’s Diner is Worcester Lunch Car # 711, originally Brady’s Diner of Bridgewater, Mass.
This is the Bridgewater location circa late 1970’s. Below is a photo
I shot in November of 1981 when the diner was in storage in Ashland, Mass.

From a press release dated 31 MARCH 2009

AUGUSTA, GA—John Baeder, one of America’s most admired photorealist painters and the 2008 Morris Museum of Art Gala honoree, has been named a recipient of one of Tennessee’s highest honors—the Governor’s Award in the Arts for 2009. Established in 1971, the award will be presented by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and First Lady Andrea Conte in a special invitation-only ceremony produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium on April 14.

The Distinguished Artist Award recognizes artists of exceptional talent and creativity in any discipline, who over the course of a career, have contributed to the arts and have helped guide and influence directions, trends, and aesthetic practices on a state or national level. Recipients were selected from fifty-six nominees to receive awards in three different categories.

In addition to Baeder, a resident of Nashville who has achieved fame for his paintings of roadside diners and eateries, the recipients of the Distinguished Artist Award are Tony-award winning actress Cherry Jones, a native of Paris, Tennessee who currently portrays the first female president on the Fox television series 24, and Nashvillian Bets Ramsey who has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the quilt world as a curator, educator, historian, writer, project director, organization founder, and award-winning fiber artist.

“We are pleased to join in the chorus of congratulations to John, an exceptional artist and good friend of this museum, on this singular honor,” said Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, and one of the executive producers of the documentary film, Baeder: Pleasant Journeys and Good Eats along the Way. “For many years, John’s passionate interest in diners has led him to his position as the preeminent chronicler of a uniquely American form of roadside architecture through his photographs and paintings. John is now as much an icon as the images he creates and the eateries he reveres.”

“I am deeply honored and very touched by this award,” said artist John Baeder. “Pinching myself, I’ll be in Nashville twenty-nine years come September, thus qualifying me to be an official Tennessee artist. My gratitude to all who bestowed this accolade and let it be another beginning.”

Baeder’s Biography

One of America’s most-admired realist painters, John Baeder was born on December 24, 1938, in South Bend, Indiana, and shortly afterward, moved with his family to Atlanta where he was raised. He attended Auburn University before embarking on a career in advertising in 1960.

He pursued a successful career as an art director for ad agencies, in Atlanta and New York City and left advertising behind in April 1972 to embark on a new career as a painter. During his years in advertising in New York (McCann­-Erikson, etc.), Baeder kept his technique sharp by drawing, painting, and taking photographs, while his day job as an art director kept him focused on American material culture.

He also began to collect old postcards of roadside America which led to his series of postcard image-inspired paintings—diners, gas stations, motels, tourist camps, and small town main street America. They helped inspire Baeder to make the transition from the world of advertising to the world of art.

In September 1972, Ivan Karp, proprietor of OK Harris Works of Art, a well known gallery in New York’s SoHo district, began exhibiting Baeder’s paintings. Since then, Baeder’s work has been the subject of more than thirty solo exhibitions, and it has been included in more than 150 group shows.

Baeder’s paintings can be found in the permanent collections of many noteworthy American museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Norton Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Newark Museum, the High Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Morris Museum of Art—to cite just a few.

He is also represented in corporate and private collections in Europe and the United States too numerous to identify. The author of three popular books—Diners (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1978; revised and updated, 1995), Gas, Food, and Lodging (New York: Abbeville Press, 1982), and Sign Language: Street Signs as Folk Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996)—John Baeder continues to live and work in Nashville, Tennessee, his home since 1980.

Morris Museum of Art

Founded in 1985, the Morris Museum of Art is the oldest museum in the country that is devoted to the art and artists of the American South. The museum’s permanent collection of approximately five thousand paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures, dating from the late-eighteenth century to the present, is displayed in galleries dedicated to, among other things, antebellum portraiture, the Civil War, genre painting, still life, landscape, Southern Impressionism, and Modernism in the South. It is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., and on Sunday, noon–5:00 p.m. For more information about the Morris Museum of Art, visit the museum’s web site at or call 706-724-7501.

Another recent painting by John Baeder of Stella’s Diner (Woburn, Mass.) Below is a photo of the same diner from a few years ago.


One thought on “Governor of Tennessee names John Baeder Distinguished Artist


    There’s A BLT with Chocolate Malt waiting for you any old time at The Cub Room South in Sylvan Park. Just call ahead so your toast don’t get cold


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