Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag, which has become internationally recognized as the symbol of the modern LGBT rights movement, died on Friday, March 31 of natural causes at his home in New York City. He was 65.
According to an official biography posted on his website, Baker worked as a flag maker since June 1978, when his first of many versions of the Rainbow Flag was displayed at San Francisco’s LGBT Pride celebration.
Over the next 39 years Baker became known internationally as a highly acclaimed flag maker and artist, with his flag designs being displayed for the premier of China and the presidents of France, Venezuela, and the Philippines as well as for the King of Spain, among others, his biography says.
“As an artist, Baker returned again and again to variations on the Rainbow Flag motif and his artwork and flag creations have appeared in galleries and museums around the word,” the biography says.
It adds that in 2000 Baker put on his first exhibition of photographs and fine art celebrating the Rainbow Flag in Rome for the LGBT World Pride event. He opened an exhibit in New York City in 2002 showcasing 180 items he created and put on an expanded version of that exhibit in San Francisco in 2003.
The biography says that while living in San Francisco in the 1970s Baker became friends with San Francisco Supervisor and gay rights icon Harvey Milk and made flags for special events, including gay rights marches, at Milk’s request.
“Just days ago, Baker had completed his latest Rainbow Flag, a nine-color flag for which he added the color lavender for diversity,” said his friend Jay Blotcher. “He had hand-sewn 39 of these flags to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the creation of the Rainbow Flag, with plans for them to be displayed in San Francisco in June, Blotcher said.
Baker is survived by his mother, Patricia Baker of San Antonio, Texas; and his sister, Ardonna Baker Cook of Cypress, Texas.