Frederick Harry Baines was born in Manchester on 19th June 1910. He attended a local junior art school from the age of 14 and, from 1930 to 1934, Manchester School of Art, where obtained a diploma.
He was one of a group of talented painters and illustrators, who graduated from the Manchester School of Art between the wars, and who saw themselves, at least initially, although some gave a lifetime of commitment, as influenced by the rise of fascism and mass unemployment as being bound to place their talent at the service of the working class movement.
Along with many others from Manchester Art School, Baines joined the Communist Party. He and others worked in theatre with Joan Littlewood and Ewan McColl, using their artistic talents in set designing. Baines produced murals for public buildings and part of the ceiling of the Buxton Opera House. On graduating, he was immediately commissioned to complete a series of murals in the north of England, and the Longford Cinema, Manchester. His work was shown in the Contemporary British Mural Painting exhibition in the Tate Gallery in 1938.
He was called up in 1940 and posted to India to do service in the Royal Engineers from 1941 to 1946. Seconded to be design studio director for the Indian government’s Exhibitions Division Information Department, Baines recorded impressions of in his artistic work, returning to India throughout his life, and eventually co-writing a book on temple sculpture late in life.
Left: Harry Baines
Baines would have liked to stay in India after demobilisation but for family reasons returned to London, joining the Ministry of Information exhibitions, where he met his wife, Pauline Behr, a typographer and book designer. Disliking an office-bound life, Baines soon left to freelance. Despite the post-war backlash against naturalism, Baines continued to produced landscapes, still lifes and portraits, often inspired by his travels.
He would seem to have drifted from the Communist Party during the Cold War period but kept to the left politically and maintained friendly relations with those he had known from Artists International and the Manchester Art School in the 1930s, such as Cliff Rowe, Ray Watkinson, Ern Brooks and Barbara Niven.
Baines died on 8th October 1995, aged 85.
Sources include: Guardian 18th November 1995