August 2, 2011

Walter Inglis Anderson - Art For All

        Walter Inglis Anderson and I have a few important things in common, although not our biographies.  Anderson was born in 1903 in New Orleans and was expected from childhood to become an artist, to which end he went to all the right schools and got all the right scholarships.  His two brothers were also artists, his oldest brother a potter who employed the rest of the family in Mississippi.  Anderson designed pottery and figurines - work with which he was not always very happy.  Some biographers think Anderson suffered life-long mental illness, while others think his problem was alcoholism.  Either way, he was in and out of hospitals.  He was known for his multiple escapes from institutions, in one case climbing down from his window on bedsheets and, on the way down, covering the brick wall in pictures of birds in flight done in soap.  After a very productive period with his wife and children in another town, he left them and returned to the family pottery.  He died in 1965.  So as far as his life goes, Anderson and I couldn't have much less in common.
        Unlike me, Anderson was also a painter and did a number of public murals, as well as the pottery.  Unlike me, Anderson often worked big.  He would carve huge lengths of linoleum and print on the back of rolls of wallpaper (presumably unpasted) sometimes over ten feet long.  The resulting prints were sold priced by the foot!  Unlike me, he often painted his prints in bright colors (though as usual I've chosen to show mostly black and white versions.)  His style, of course, is quite different from mine, very stylized, with Asian and Art Deco influences.
        For all these differences, though, some of Anderson's interests and philosophies are right in keeping with my own.  Anderson was interested in his local ecosystem, birds and animals.  He was also a writer and a keeper of "logbooks."  He was interested in illustrating fairy tales, nursery rhymes, legends, and children's stories, especially fantastical tales.  He was interested in making art specifically for children, including an alphabet book.  (More on that later!)  He believed that quality art should be part of everyone's life and available to everyone.  (This is one of the reasons he worked with linoleum - he could sell linocuts inexpensively so that almost anyone could afford original art.)  In all these ideas I feel that Anderson and I are kindred spirits.

       For lots more of his work you can check out the Walter Anderson Shop run by his family.  They sell hand silk-screened reproductions of his work.

[Pictures: Tall Pines, linoleum block by Walter Inglis Anderson;
Beauty and the Beast No. 1, linoleum print by Anderson, hand colored by Adele Lawton;
Old King Cole, linoleum block by Anderson;
Three Terns, linoleum block by Anderson.  (These pieces are undated, but I think they were all done in the 1940's.  The images are all from the Walter Anderson Shop.)]

1 comment:

Pax said...

Is this akin to those wonderful murals painted in post offices and other public buildings by artists under the WPA during the last depression? The idea that even in desperate economic times we all need some beauty and art in our lives, and artists need to have work, as well?