Earl Kenneth Bates, The Great Oak, Mystic Museum

Earl Kenneth Bates (1895 – 1973)
Early Member
The Great Oak
Oil on linen
Mystic Museum of Art Permanent Collection

Ken Bates was the son of the Reverend Welcome E. Bates, minister of the Mystic Baptist Church. Moving to Mystic at the age of ten and growing up in the atmosphere of the Mystic Art Colony, Bates formed a lifelong friendship with Charles H. Davis, who later became his next-door neighbor. Bates attended the Art Students League in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. It was in Philadelphia that he became acquainted with a fellow student, Gladys Edgerly, who would become his wife.

Ken and Gladys were instrumental in the development of the Mystic Art Association. The Bateses joined the Association in 1924, and Ken was MAA Secretary in 1930, when the grounds for our current location were purchased and the gallery began construction (in fact, Ken was the one who discovered this property was for sale). The couple were avid gardeners, and dug up their entire side lawn to transplant onto the new MAA grounds in a group landscaping effort.

The Bateses had three sons, and Harlequin and Columbine were some of their childhood toys.

Bates was primarily an oil painter, occasionally working in pastel. His early works show a realism akin to that of Eugene Speicher and Leon Kroll, but his later style evolved from realism into a more expressionist style, often finding abstract patterns in the organic forms of roots, trees, and rocks. One could draw a parallel between Bates and his close friend, Charles H. Davis, who had also in later years displaced his earlier Tonalism-Impressionism with an expressionist, abstract style.