An excerpt from the foreword by John Arthur.
John Baeder is much more than a painter of diners. He is a knowledgable and deeply committed chronicler of that rapidly disappearing facet of American vernacular architecture that has played such a unique role in our social and cultural history. For more than 2 decades, Baeder has travelled the country photographing and documenting diners. He is not only one of the preeminent authorities on these pre-fast-food eateries, their menus, memorabilia, and the roadside culture that encompasses them, he is also a great raconteur and a natural writer. The clarity and wit of his communicative facility are unique in contemporary painting.
He is an avid collector of postcards, matchbooks, menus, old photographs of diners, and other diner and roadside memorabilia. He has acknowledged a debt to the Farm Security Administration photographers, but he holds a special affection for those anonymous, street photographers of the past, for through their work we remember the look and mood of our cities and towns.
Certainly no other Photorealist has articulated the significance of the diverse elements that have provided the impulse and formed the character of his or her paintings with Baeder’s lucidity, wit, and graciousness.
In the end, perhaps Baeder is more akin to those adventurous, vagabond Victorian painters – Edward Lear, Thomas Seddon, William Simpson, and others – who recorded their impressions of India, Greece, Egypt, and the Islamic countries in sketchbooks and journals. But rather than exotic lands, he has documented facets of our culture so commonplace that we took them for granted. In doing so, he has preserved the neighborhood diner, the old full-service filling station, and much of our distinctive roadside culture that has all but been lost.
Like John Baeder’s paintings and watercolors of our American diners, his books are warm, insightful, and often humorous blends of autobiography, recent history, and vernacular fact, and as such they are significant documents of our time. Very few painters can make such a claim.