Bernard “Ben” Badura (1896 - 1986)
Remembered by most as one of the New Hope’s premier frame-makers, Bernard “Ben” Badura was also a painter of significant skill.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1896, Badura studied art at the Wisconsin State Normal School for Teachers. After serving his country in WWI, Badura enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1923 under the tutelage of Daniel Garber and Arthur B. Carles. In 1924, he was awarded the Cresson Traveling Scholarship enabling him to continue his studies in Europe. Upon his return in 1927, Badura moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania to apprentice under Frederick Harer, a world-class frame-maker. Badura met and married fellow Academy student Faye Swengel in 1928. Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to the town of Center Bridge and eventually settled on Main Street in New Hope, from 1931 until the end of their long and prosperous lives.
During his early days in Bucks County, Badura worked as a stained glass artisan in the studios of George Sotter. While also learning the frame-making trade from Frederick Harer, Badura was to make an important career decision--painting (his passion), stained glass artisan, or frame-maker? Deciding it best not to compete with his wife’s painting career, as well as there being a greater need for high quality frames than “starving artists”, Badura chose frame-making.
His friend and mentor Frederick Harer had many more orders for frames than he could handle. Harer, giving his over-run orders to the newly established Badura Studio, gave Ben’s new business a successful start. What began as the seemingly right choice primarily for financial reasons, soon turned into a passion and Badura’s frames became highly sought after. Ben was turning away work, as he only would take on as much work as needed to pay the monthly bills, leaving any spare time for painting. Badura left behind a legacy of hand-carved and gilded masterpieces, often found surrounding the works of Garber, Redfield, Nuse, Coppedge, and many others. He also made the occasional ornamental mirror using floral designed, chevron carvings, and unique scrafedo designs depicting birds and foliage. Ben worked as one of the nation’s foremost frame-makers until his death in 1986.
Badura was a member of the New Century Club and exhibited at the Connecticut Academy of Fine Art (1934 prize, for “White Tenant House”), the Corcoran Gallery (1932-1937), the National Academy of Design (1933-34), the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Phillips Mill near New Hope, Philadelphia Art Club, the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and the New Jersey State Museum. His work is in the collection of the James A. Michener and Woodmere Art museums, as well as in many private and institutional collections.