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Study for the Mural of the History of the South
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
The following information was submitted in June of 2006 by Henry Grovenor:
Walter Anderson firmly believed that quality art was an important part of life and should be made available to everyone. As he said, “There should be simple, good decorations, to be sold at prices to rival the five-and-ten.” Noticing that only poor quality art was available in stores and little was available for children, he resolved to make art which could be reproduced easily and sell inexpensively — linoleum block prints. This technique enabled him to provide affordable, quality art.
The technique of linoleum block printing is a simple concept; however, it requires much skill and talent to actually produce memorable art. Anderson purchased surplus “battleship linoleum,” thicker than ordinary linoleum with a burlap backing for better support, to create his blocks. During the mid-1940s, he created almost 300 linocuts working in the attic of the sea-side plantation house, Oldfields, his wife’s family home in Gautier. Masses of linoleum chips accumulated at the foot of the attic stairs as he often worked night and day. He began with sketching out a design directly on the linoleum. Once he had carved the image into the surface, he used the back of faded, surplus stock wallpaper that a friend sent him, laying long strips on top of the inked linoleum. A roller made of sewer pipe filled with sand served as his press. When the print was completed, he often colored it by hand with bold strokes and vivid colors. The prints were sold at Shearwater Pottery, the family business, for a mere dollar a foot.
But “what about a well-designed fairy tale for a child’s room?” he asked himself. Since there was a lack of affordable art for children, much of his work with linoleum blocks focused on subjects for children. He depicted fables and fairy tales ranging from Arabian Nights, to Germany and the Grimm Brothers’ Rapunzel, to the French story of The White Cat, to the Greek tales such as Europa and the Bull, and to tales from China, India, and other cultures. Anderson also created “mini” books featuring the alphabet and Robinson Cat. The blocks are not only alive with the story being depicted, but they are also filled with designs taken from Best-Maugard’s Method for Creative Design. Swirls, half-circles and zig-zag lines fill every available space on the linoleum block making them come alive and capture their audience.
But fairy tales, children’s verses and the “mini” books, consisting of about 90 blocks, were not the sole subject of Anderson’s linoleum block prints. In total, he created approximately 300 linoleum blocks with subjects ranging from coastal flora and fauna, coastal animals, and sports and other coastal activities. Anderson even created linoleum blocks to be used to print tablecloths and clothing, some worn by his own children. Color and subjects of the linoleum block prints were not the only things that got them noticed.
In 1945 when Anderson was creating these prints, the standard size of linoleum block prints was only 12 by 18 inches. These small dimensions were due to the common size of the paper available and the restrictions made by national competitions. Since Anderson used wallpaper and was not concerned with competitions, he was able to have creative freedom and make huge prints.
Anderson felt that the art available in five-and-dime stores not only was short on quality, but short on size. He decided to make large prints that hung like vertical scrolls or horizontal over-mantels. Therefore, he made many of his prints 60 to 100 inches in length or height by approximately 19 inches (to fit the wallpaper strips). According to Carole E. Thompson in Walter Anderson: Prints from Mississippi, the scale of Anderson’s prints has made him the first American artist to create linoleum block prints on such a large scale.
By 1949, Anderson had an exhibition of his linoleum block prints, drawings, a few ceramics, and some wood sculptures at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. According to correspondence, the museum was interested in the prints of such works as King Arthur and Billy Goats Gruff. Anderson wrote of the Brooklyn Museum showing of the fairy tale block prints, “Fairy tales have been used so often as sedatives that it is usually forgotten that they are also explosions… small explosions that are so identified with the life of man that they stimulate without destroying life.” He wrote to the curator about his concerns for art reaching the people: “I hope that you will be able to reach the people who cannot afford to pay a great deal for works of art but still have an appetite for beauty and the imaginative world of fairy tales.” In saying this, Anderson reinforced his belief that art should be available to everyone.
Walter Anderson was a visionary with many mediums. Whether with murals, watercolors, painted pottery or linoleum block printing, his desire was to reach the people, for he strongly believed that art enhanced people’s lives.
Source: Erica Peterson
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|A resident of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Walter Anderson was a
painter, muralist, sculptor, printmaker, and ceramist. His watercolors
are considered first rank in this century, and he became a noted
illustrator of children's books. The Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean
Springs, Mississippi, houses the primary collection of his works.|
was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and studied at the Pennsylvania
Academy of the Fine Arts, where in 1927, he received a Cresson
Fellowship to study in Paris.
In Paris, he preferred the forms
of the Paleolithic cave paintings of the Dordogne Caves to the
modernist excitement of the art world. He was inspired by Karl
Blossfeldt's flower studies, evidenced by Anderson's work in the 1940s.
Much of his painting has been done in Horn Island, Mississippi,
having returned in 1929 he settled in Ocean Springs and worked for his
brother who had the Shearwater Pottery Company.
In 1934, he
painted murals for the Ocean Springs High School with the WPA (Works
Progress Administration) program. In 1940, after three years of being
hospitalized for mental illness, he and his wife and children moved to
Oldfields, the family home in Gautier where he did linocut prints of
epic voyages and depictions of folklore and mythology. In 1946, he
began working alone at Horn Island.
In 1950 and 1951, he was
commissioned to paint murals for the Ocean Springs Community Center.
His subjects often depicted the flora and fauna of the Gulf Coast.
his death, his family discovered a large amount of work in what was
called the "little room", a place at his home where he worked for 20
years by himself. There he created huge murals covering 2500 square
feet, depicting scenes of American Indian culture and the arrival of
French explorers in 1699. The Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs has a
high-ceilinged "little room" from which some of Anderson's works from
his "little room" are ever on display.
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
American Art Review, 6/2002
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|When Hurricane Katrina struck in the Fall of 2005, most of the work of
Walter Anderson, including thousands of watercolors, drawings, block
prints, and manuscripts, was stored at Ocean Springs, Mississippi in a
small, sturdy cinderblock building built after Hurricane Camille and
designed to resist hurricanes. |
A smaller selection, including the pieces displayed at the 2003 Smithsonian Exhibition Everything I See Is New and Strange,
was at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs. The
collection at Shearwater was heavily damaged by the storm (the flood
water surged into the storage building and submerged almost all of the
art), but the Walter Anderson Museum of Art collection escaped damage,
as did the Ocean Springs Community Center murals and the murals from
Anderson's cottage at Shearwater.
The Walter Anderson Museum reopened to the public on October 18,
2005. In the weeks after Katrina, the damaged collection was
dried by volunteers and family members and moved to Mississippi State
University, Starkville, MS, for conservation and restoration.
A good part of Anderson's writing had already been microfilmed by the
Archives of American Art, and other manuscripts had been safely stored
in the Mississippi Department of Archivs and History.
Shearwater Pottery, the family business where Peter, Walter, and James
McConnell Anderson had worked, was devastated by the storm. On
the storm damage, see Linda Hales, "Buried Treasures: Storm's Toll on
Culture," Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2005, and Debbie Elliott, "A Family of Artists Picks Up the Pieces," National Public Radio, Sept. 18, 2005.
Submitted to the Discussion Board of Walter Anderson by Christopher Maurer on 12/25/2005
|Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:|
|Horn Island—created by forces of land and sea over thousands of
years—was for artist Walter Inglis Anderson a pristine wilderness, an
elemental place where he celebrated a “spiritual kinship with the
Anderson called himself the “Islander,” a term that embraced both his
self-imposed isolation from society and his exuberant love for the
Mississippi barrier islands. His wife, Agnes Grinstead Anderson,
described her husband’s relationship to his most beloved island: “As
long as he was on Horn Island he was in tune with the rhythms of the
universe. He was part of the changing seasons. He was
filled with the ecstasy of creation. He recorded it all, working
endlessly. It became his world.” (2)
During the last fifteen years of his life, Anderson visited Horn Island
with increasing frequency, rowing there across open sea in a small
wooden skiff, art supplies and food stowed in trashcans for protection
from rain and surf. He would stay on the island for days or
weeks, studying and detailing in drawings, paintings, and “log” entries
the expanse of the island environment: here, radiant dunes and
wind-formed pines framing a cerulean sea; or the communal energy of his
favored bird, the pelican.
It was only after Anderson’s death in 1965 that his family discovered
in the crumbling Shearwater cottage—his studio and mainland refuge—the
magnitude of the artist’s ceaseless creative work. In the midst
of clutter and the brilliant murals he had painted on the walls of the
“Little Room” lay thousands of small watercolors and drawings. In line
and color, on sheets of ordinary typewriter paper, Walter Anderson
preserved the rhythms and intricacies of life on Horn Island, his
1. John Paul Driscoll, Walter Anderson: Realizations of the Islander (Ocean Springs, Mississippi: Walter Anderson Estate, 1985): 7.
2. Agnes Grinstead Anderson, Approaching the Magic Hour: Memories of Walter Anderson (Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1989): 148.
Written by Ann R. King, for Columbus Museum
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