In 1923, Sarah Baker won the Emlen Cresson Scholarship for European travel by the Pennsylvania Academy and travelled to Paris to study painting with André Lhote. Baker’s experience during this time deepened the experimental nature of her own work and allied her with the modernists throughout her career, even though the manner of her own painting was a rather broad impressionism or, at its most adventurous, recalled the reductive images of Matisse. Sometimes, as in this little still life, she attempted daring, swiftly painted statements in large, simple masses.
Baker would often find her first attempt unsuccessful, wipe it out, and start over, but not so here. Eggplants suggests the freshness of an artist’s first few strokes on an empty canvas; it has all the vitality, spontaneity, and freedom one expects from such paintings. The purple-red and blue-purple-black eggplants sit on a plate against a brilliant alizarin background. As in other still lifes, she shows no table edge or background plane. The eggplants are seen close up and create a target-like impression. The dark, harshly painted lines of the plate encircle the eggplants and effectively promote Baker’s dramatic intention. The dark, almost haphazard markings on the tablecloth help stabilize and situate the ground plane of the plate.