17.10.2020 by Charles Burns
Baj B is one of my favourite silhouettists. I’ve learned a lot from looking at the best of their silhouettes (I’ve no idea whether Baj was male or female, so will use the non-gendered third person). At their best there are silhouettes I would struggle emulate.
As an avid collector of Baj B I run some of my virtual studio days in tribute to this artist. The last was on 8th December 2020.
Baj B was meticulous about labelling their silhouettes.The silhouettes I’ve collected come with a bewildering variety of stamps and printed labels, most of which identify the artist as either “Baj. B”, “Bay B.”or simply “Baj”. I’ve no idea what the second “B” stands for, but they used the name in Baj Italy and Bay in France.
The little I know about the artist comes from looking at the silhouettes. These tell me that Baj was probably Italian and spent a number of years in the early 1920s cutting silhouettes on the fashionable Lido Beach in Venice. They used a set of souvenir postcards to mount the silhouettes, which must have been printed specially as each includes the artist’s name. I guess each client had to choose which background they wanted from a choice of at least eight (but I suspect a dozen or so).
The earliest Baj silhouettes I’ve seen date from 1907 and were cut at an exhibition in Bordeaux, France. There are also a number of undated silhouettes which could have been cut anywhere in Europe around this time.
Baj silhouettes vary from mediocre to truly extraordinary. Many of them include delicate pencil shading at the back the collars. Although I’ve never seen an unlabelled Baj silhouette, I know this would be a sure way to attribute it if I did.
There’s a silhouette in my collection I call the “Peaky Blinders” cutting . It’s one of those few silhouettes I look at and immediately know I couldn’t do that. The small scale and intricate collar cutting would be beyond me at a live event. The line of the glasses is cut in a single slash almost right through the head, while the head is held to the body inly by two slender slivers of paper (the back of the collar being open and shaded in with pencil).
This, of course, is the real reason I collect these unknown artists. Every so often, they teach me something new. Baj B is just such an artist.