Historically, the best marine painters prove to be those who have a working firsthand knowledge of their subject. This appears true in the case of E.T. Baker. Born in New York City, his formative years were spent with his extended family in the whaling ports of Connecticut. He married a local woman in 1851 and undoubtedly joined in the lucrative whale oil and baleen trades.
He first formally registers as an artist back in NYC in 1868. This occupation change was likely prompted by the heavy destruction inflicted upon the northern whaling fleets during the American Civil War. The dozens of known works by Baker indicate the shift was profitable and, artistically speaking, highly merited. His early works are often attributed to him, while he later signed ‘E. Taylor Baker’, ‘E.T. Baker’ and developed a distinct intertwined initial monogram by the late 1880s.
He painted in the draftsman style of his later contemporaries, undoubtedly influencing many of them. Still, he enhanced his works with flashes of luminescence, which progressed from the Hudson River School through the works of Fitz Hugh Lane and William Bradford. Not favoring any particular style of ship, he painted all types. His best known work is of the new London whaleship George, captained by his relative, William M. Baker.