Walter Inglis Anderson: Works and Days
by Christopher Maurer
(published in Patricia Pinson, The Art of Walter Anderson, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003)
This chronology is based upon Christopher Maurer and María Estrella Iglesias, Dreaming in Clay on the Coast of Mississippi: Love and Art at Shearwater (New York: Doubleday, 2000); and my biography, Fortune’s Favorite Child: The Life of Walter Anderson (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003.) Both of these books draw on Agnes Grinstead Anderson’s poignant memoir Approaching the Magic Hour and on the expert knowledge of Mary Anderson Pickard, Redding S. Sugg, Jr, and others. I am indebted to Mary Anderson Pickard for her writing and teaching about the life and work of her father. Because Walter Anderson seldom dated his works or his letters, it is not always possible to assign definitive dates. Only a few of them –enough to orient the reader– are included here. The letters and numbers in parenthesis refer to illustrations of the works in this catalogue and in the following books:
AMH Agnes Grinstead Anderson. Approaching the Magic Hour. Memories of Walter Anderson. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1989.
B Walter Anderson. Birds. Introductory essay by Mary Anderson Pickard. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1990.
HIL The Horn Island Logs of Walter Inglis Anderson. Edited by Redding S. Sugg, Jr.
Rev. ed., Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985.
IEV Walter Anderson’s Illustrations of Epic and Voyage. Edited and with an introduction
by Redding S. Sugg, Jr. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press;
London and Amsterdam: Feffer & Simmons, 1980.
MC The Magic Carpet and Other Tales. Retold by Ellen Douglas with the illustrations of Walter Anderson. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1987.
PP Redding S. Sugg, Jr. A Painter’s Psalm. The Mural from Walter Anderson’s Cottage.
Rev. ed. Jackson and London: University Press of Mississippi, 1992.
RI Walter Anderson: Realizations of the Islander. Selections of Paintings and Essay by John Paul Driscoll. The Walter Anderson Estate, 1985.
SA Walter Anderson. A Symphony of Animals. Introduction by Mary Anderson Pickard, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996.
VR The Voluptuous Return. Still Life by Walter Inglis Anderson. Foreward by Patti Carr Black. Ocean Springs: Family of Walter Anderson, 1999
WL Anne R. King. Walls of Light. The Murals of Walter Anderson. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, 1999.
Born in New Orleans, September 29, the second son of George Walter Anderson (1865-1937), a New Orleans grain dealer, and Annette McConnell Anderson (1867-1964), who had studied art at Newcomb College (class of 1900) and possibly with William Merritt Chase and J. Alden Weir. WIA’s brothers are Peter Anderson (1901-1964) and James McConnell Anderson (“Mac”) (1907-1998.)
The Andersons move to 553 Broadway, near Audubon Park. As a child, WIA attends a small private school run by family friends, the Finney sisters. Childhood drawings (WL 15; SA viii; B 10.)
WIA attends R.M. Lusher Public School, New Orleans.
In Summer 1915, WIA and Peter enroll at St. John’s School, Manlius, New York. WIA takes a course on landscape painting at E. Ambrose Webster’s Summer School of Art, Provincetown, Massachusetts. In June 1918, Annette McConnell Anderson purchases “Fairhaven,” a property on the Bay of Biloxi, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Studies at Isidore Newman Manual Training School, New Orleans (October 1, 1919-
January 1922), but leaves without graduating. In August 1920, WIA nearly drowns while sailing his catboat from Ocean Springs to Chef Menteur. Elephant Chest (SA ix); carved figures of people and animals (SA xi)
Studies commercial art at New York School of Fine and Applied Art, later known as
Parsons School of Design, and lives in a boarding house on the Upper West Side. Course on Jay Hambidge’s “Dynamic Symmetry,” taught by Howard Giles. Attends 1923 “Independents Exhibition”; frequents the Museum of Natural History, the Hispanic Society of America, the Metropolitan Museum and other museums and exhibitions. Reads voraciously and works on woodcarving, watercolors and tempera painting.
Summer: the Andersons move to Fairhaven, Ocean Springs.
Studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, on a scholarship from the New Orleans Art Association, and studies with Henry McCarter, Daniel Garber, Hugh Breckenridge, Arthur B. Carles. Friendship with Frank Baisden, Francis Speight, Walter and Cyril Gardner, Archie Bonge and Conrad Roland. Works on school drawings of animals, drawings from cast and life, carved saints, paintings (Portrait of a Girl, Walter Anderson Museum of Art) and others reproduced in 1928 and 1929 Academy catalogues.
President’s Prize, Packard Competition for Animal Drawing.
Second Prize, Packard Competition. In summer, he returns home in a canoe down the
Mississippi River. Peter Anderson builds a “groundhog kiln” at Fairhaven and fires his first pieces.
Annette McConnell Anderson organizes a summer art colony at Fairhaven, under the direction of Daniel G. Whitney, an artist from New Orleans. Peter studies pottery with Edmund DeForest Curtis in Wayne, Pennsylvania and, upon his return, begins to build the future Shearwater Pottery.
With Schuyler Jackson and Frank Baisden, attends lectures by F.R. Orage (spokesman and fund-raiser for Armenian visionary George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff) in Trenton and New York. In the summer, he travels through France and Spain on Cresson Traveling Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Visits caves of Les Eyzies, Mont St. Michel, Chartres, and the Louvre and Prado. Brief visit to the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, directed by Gurdjieff. Peter studies under Charles F. Binns at the School of Clay-Working and Ceramics at Alfred, New York.
Shearwater Pottery opens to the public. In 1928-29 WIA designs his earliest ceramic pieces: pelican and crab bookends, lampstands (SA xvi), “Resting” and “Sitting Geometric Cats”, (SA 23), “rounded” cats, a fish, Horse and Rider (SA 55), a horse, and numerous plates and vases. His work as a designer and decorator at Shearwater Pottery, from now until his death, will include incised pieces; sgraffito work; underglaze decoration (examples of pottery in SA xi, 10, 19, 20 and passim; B 65, 80, 85, 92; WL 25.) Woodcarvings of saints, carved “Nativity,” copies of African/Polynesian art, early furniture designs.
Peter and WIA meet Patricia and Agnes (“Sissy”) Grinstead at Shearwater: daughters of William Wade Grinstead, a Pittsburgh lawyer and trust officer, and Agnes Marjorie Deuel Hellmuth. WIA paints in oil. Early works include Dark Flowers, Dark-Haired Woman in Red Dress. At the Pottery, WIA makes “Vase with Horses” (SA 18), remembering the cave paintings of Les Eyzies, and gives it to Sissy or her mother. He also does the cast piece Bacchante, pelican doorstop, and pirate figurines.
Peter Anderson marries Patricia Grinstead (April 16). WIA corresponds with Sissy, a Fine Arts major at Radcliffe College (class of 1931), telling her about his painting, his woodcarving (figures in cedar), and his admiration for primitive art, including African sculpture.
Opening of Shearwater Annex, where WIA and James McConnell Anderson produce a series of “Negro figurines” (widgets.) In November, the figurines are included in an exhibition of Contemporary American Ceramics at W. & J. Sloane, a department store on Fifth Avenue, N.Y., bringing publicity in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and other national publications, but WIA dismisses them as “perfectly worthless.” At Shearwater, WIA discusses primitive art with Tulane archaeologist Franz Blom. In Summer, he and Sissy are engaged. His carved vases Jazz and Bacchante are exhibited in March at the Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson.
Marries Sissy at St. Pierre’s Episcopal Church, Gautier (April 29.) Honeymoon at Oldfields, the Grinstead family home in Gautier, Mississippi.
In Spring, paints mural in the auditorium of the Ocean Springs Public School (“Ocean Springs Past and Present”), on a commission from the Public Works of Art Project (WL 17-40) (see Francis V. O’Connor, pp. 00-00.) Peter Anderson and James McConnell Anderson create a ceramic mural for the entrance of the school (WL 21.) WIA paints Indians Hunting (WL 26) and Jockeys Riding Horses (WL 25, 27.) Other early paintings include at least four oil portraits of Sissy, 1933-37; Black Skimmer (B 68-69), Androcles and Lion (SA 54), Man on Horse (SA 57), and Achilles (Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.) Watercolors of flowers, animals, and birds. Bird studies for a projected book on birds of the southeastern U.S. (B xi, 7, 12, 21, 51-55, 57-58) Blockprints, including “Tourist Cards”, “Alphabet” (SA xvii, 72), nursery rhymes, “On the River,” “Valkyries,” “Butterfly Book,” scenes from Shearwater Pottery.
In Summer 1934, WIA and Sissy attend Bach Festival in Bethelehem, Pennsylvania with
Dr. and Mrs. Edwards A. Park. They visit Sissy’s Grinstead relatives in Louisville, Kentucky, make an excursion to Baltimore, where he orders supplies for the construction of paper lampshades (example in the Walter Anderson Museum of Art). They attempt to return to Ocean Springs in a canoe on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. WIA is stricken with malaria, and the trip is broken off in Lake Village, Arkansas.
Submits preliminary sketches to the U.S. Treasury Department, Section of Painting and
Sculpture, for a mural in the Jackson, Mississippi Post Office and Court House (WL 28.) (See chronology by O’Connor, pp. 00-00). Weaves numerous hooked rugs, from 1929 through the early 1940s (WL 20.) Two copper red carved vases are exhibited in the Robineau Memorial Exhibition, sponsored by the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts (other pieces are displayed regularly in this exhibition throughout the 1930s and 1940s.) Shearwater Pottery, including decorated work by WIA, is shown in the California Pacific Exposition, San Diego.
Undulant fever. Renovation of the Cottage, with furniture designed by WIA. Mural designs are rejected in Jackson, Mississippi Post Office and Court House competition. Submits designs for mural (never completed) at the Indianola, Mississippi Post Office (WL 28) (see chronology by O’Connor)
Death of his father, George Walter Anderson (February 23.) After a psychotic episode in March, enters Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, Johns Hopkins University (April 1), where he is treated by Adolf Meyer, Norman Cameron, Henry Mead, and a team of distinguished psychiatrists. The diagnosis is hypothymergasia (depression in which the patient displays feelings of guilt and inadequacy and the desire to harm himself) (DC). Hooks rugs, models in clay, “plays at the piano.” December 8: birth of his first child, Mary. That month, a showing of Shearwater Pottery at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Among Bob’s pieces are “a powerful, blunt lion in a beautiful dull-glazed green shade”; “two pelican heads,”; “panels of rhythmic rounded nymphs dancing in ivory glaze around a pale blue vase and the same nymphs in green on a dull green vase” (Bacchante?); “a bold, crude and arresting presentation of the adoration of the Shepherds and Wise Men”; Negro figurines; pirates; “a sleepy cat in the subtle dull gun-metal shade” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dec. 15, 1937.)
Discharged from Phipps after 18 months of treatment (October.) Returns to Shearwater, where he paints and draws. The pottery figure Rima (suggested by W.H. Hudson’s Green Mansions) is submitted to the Robineau Memorial Exhibition. In December, Peter Anderson enters Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, where he will remain for nine months.
Admitted to Mississippi State Hospital, Whitfield (February) and diagnosed with “dementia praecox, catatonic type.” Escapes from Whitfield in April. In May, he is admitted to The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, Baltimore, where he is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Works on wallpaper designs, drawing, modeling in clay, and reads extensively. Escapes on July 1, 1939. In October, WIA returns to Shearwater and is re-admitted to Whitfield. Birth of son, William Walter. Escapes from Whitfield, Lives with Annette McConnell Anderson and an attendant in a house on Moss Avenue, in Jackson, Mississippi. Writes a series of illustrated letters to Sissy (AMH 14); designs dresses; oil painting of Don Quixote; important series of pencil drawings (AMH 33, 43, 50, etc.) Paints with Marie Hull.
In February, escapes from his mother’s care in Jackson and walks to Shearwater. Resumes pottery decoration there, working in black and white. Many works by WIA are shown at an exhibition titled “Anderson Brothers’ Shearwater Pottery,” May 19-31 at the Number 10 Gallery, New York. Among the figurines are Chesty Horse, Tibetan Cats, pirates and Negro figurines, Trojan Horses, Sea Gulls and Pelicans. Carved pieces include Sea, Earth and Sky, Thrasher Vase, Bacchante, and Flying Duck and Flying Gull plates. Begins a translation of Summa Artis, a multi-volume history of art by the Spaniard José Pijoan. First trips to the Chandeleurs (barrier islands) to observe pelicans (B 86.) Block prints a children’s book, Robinson the Cat (SA x.). Sissy briefly separates from him while she visits Hellmuth relatives in Chicago and lives with the two children at the house of painter Dusti Bonge in Biloxi..
In April, Sissy moves to the Grinstead family home, Oldfields, with her father, Mary and Billy. That summer WIA joins Sissy at Oldfields, and begins to participate fully in life with his family on a coastal farm. Studies Adolfo Best-Maugard, A Method for Creative Design and Jay Hambidge’s works on “dynamic symmetry” (A 34) and incorporates Best-Maugard’s “seven motifs” into his work (A xiv; HIL 15), for example, into a series (both in ink and in color) of “Calendar Drawings,” a journal in images of his life at Oldfields, 1941-43 (A xvii, 6, 34, 46-47, 58, 65; B 87, 91, 93-100.) He also works on ink, pencil and crayon drawings illustrating scenes from his readings in Pope’s Iliad; Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner; Alice in Wonderland; Hamlet; Paradise Lost and Regained; Faust; Ossian; Don Quixote; Bulfinch’s Legends of Charlemagne; Dante’s Divine Comedy; Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, etc. (IEV.) Ink drawings of plants and animals, sea creatures, people (WL 43.) Collaborates with Sissy on ilustrated poems.
Fall: Bicycle trip to New York, to sketch and visit museums. Admires Egyptian antiquities at the Metropolitan, “things from Cyprus and Crete,” Etruscan art, early Greek figures, and Mesopotamian pottery. Revisits the Museum of Natural History. Upon his return to Oldfields he builds a kiln in the carriage house, and designs, models, fires and decorates a new series of figurines (A 29.)
Bicycle trip to New Orleans, where he does preliminary sketches for city scenes he will paint in watercolors at Oldfields (WL 59.) He combines many of these into composite mural-like scenes. Also does series of plants and animals at Oldfields in the primary colors, in which the figures are surrounded by an aura of lemon-yellow light (A 2, 4, 5, 25, 28, 53, 106-107; B vi, 101, 115, 118; RI, plates 1-7.) Several distinct series emerge, including Nativity at the Barn (A 120-21); Pines and Oaks, Pecan Trees with Doves, and Garden. Probable date of The Road to Oldfields. In June he stages a puppet show in the attic at Oldfields about animal and plant life in the cut-over lands (clear cut by loggers.) Interest in Hambidge develops into ink drawings –dominated by spirals– of animals and plants.
In January, walks from Oldfields to see the Mississippi Sand Hill Cranes, and writes an essay about the experience. Exhibition of Shearwater Pottery by Peter Anderson, decorated by Walter Anderson, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee. Sketches pelicans in the Chandeleurs (HIL 43-53.) May 23: birth of daughter Leif, whom he names for Leif Eriksson.
Large, bold tempera paintings, often on wallpaper, of birds, people, fall foliage, animals, pelicans, sea creatures, fairy tale figures (WL 42, 46.). Large linoleum block prints of fish and animals, birds, clouds, trees, cut-over land, wildflowers, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, myth, Arabian Nights, etc. (MC; A 16-17, 32-33, 48-49); B viii, 72, 74, 78, 79; WL 47) Large watercolors like Monkey in Jungle (A 76) or Cow (A 95.) In August, bicycle trip to Western Texas, where he sketches the landscape. Chair designs.
Birth of son, John Grinstead, March 12. In 1946 or 1947 WIA leaves Oldfields and moves into the Cottage at Ocean Springs. Summer: gives volunteer art classes at a hospital in Gulfport.
Trip to Chandeleurs to observe nesting pelicans. Essay on pelicans, drawings in sepia ink on typewriter paper of pelicans (B 56, 83, 85; HIL 76.) Carves The Swimmer (Walter Anderson Museum of Art) from a tree blown down in the 1947 hurricane, as well as a series of carved and painted animals (A 19, 38-39, 116, 121 and Squirrel, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.) Paints numerous still lifes (VR.) Begins regular trips to Horn Island.
“Folktales and Fantasy: Modern Scroll Prints by Walter Anderson,” exhibition of blockprints, two sculpted, wooden cats, and ceramics, at Brooklyn Museum, May 26-Oct. 1. In 1949-50, some of the carved pieces go on sale in the Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York. August-September: travel to China, with the intention of looking at Tibetan murals. His belongings and passport are stolen, and the trip ends early, with a return to Hong Kong and a visit to Macao. In Hong Kong, before departing for the U.S., he does a series of ink drawings illustrating his travels, and a series of remarkable watercolors of sea creatures (RI plates 8-9; VR plate 2.)
In July, WIA puts up The River (group of wood sculptures, including Father Mississippi)
at Shearwater (A xviii, 119.) Designs and builds furniture (pelican chair, blue jay table; B 21, 30), chests, carves assorted animals, and creates fairy-tale figurines. Probable date of decorative mural in the bathroom of the Cottage (A 104.) In November, exhibition of blockprints at Mississippi Delta Art Association, Greenwood, Mississippi.
In September, a comprehensive exhibition sponsored by American Association of University Women, organized by Lura Beam, opens at Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, Tennessee, with an enthusiastic review (“A genius is amongst us”) by Guy Northrop, art critic of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Over the next two years sixty pieces– fairy-tale block prints, woodcarvings, watercolors and line drawings– tour twenty cities in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Alabama and Oklahoma. When the tour comes to an end, an ink drawing of a pelican is included in another AAUW exhibition, “Contemporary American Drawing,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
AAUW show exhibited in newly-built Ocean Springs Community Center, Jan. 31-Feb. 2. First showing of his works in Ocean Springs. On March 10, begins work on Community Center murals, commissioned in mid-February and executed for the sum of $1.00. By April, finishes preliminary drawings on walls of the Community Center. In June, Guy Northrop interviews him about Community Center murals (WL 51-90.) That summer, he travels to Costa Rica, where he sketches and paints and gathers orchids and other plants. In September, exhibition of prints, large and small watercolors, and Shearwater pottery in Lauren Rogers Museum, Laurel, Mississippi.
Before October 1954, probably paints mural in “Little Room” of Cottage at Shearwater ( cf. PP; WL 91-103.) From now until the end of his life, frequent trips to Horn Island, where he draws, paints watercolors, and meditates on art and nature.
Exhibits a scroll print – “Jack the Giant Killer”– at the Mississippi State College for Women, Columbus, Mississippi, and it is acquired by their permanent collection.
Train and bicycle trip to Philadelphia and New York (April) to see artwork by his old teacher Henry McCarter and visit with Francis Speight, a friend from the Academy.Bicycle trip to Memphis, Tennessee (August.)
In January, “paintings, drawings and craftwork” by WIA go on display in the little gallery
at the Newcomb, in New Orleans. Exhibits watercolors (Sea Turtles, Man of War Birds, Baby Pelicans on Chandeleur Islands, Pitcher Plants, Shoes and Onions, Oranges, Shrimp, Possum, Pansies, Fruit, and Turkey), as well as blockprints on paper and cloth at the Mississippi Art colony, Allison's Wells, in Way, Mississippi (August.) Series of watercolor studies for plate designs (A 42-43B 62), many of which are painted in underglaze decoration at Shearwater (B 67, 71). In September, he is hospitalized at DePaul Sanatarium, New Orleans. During his month there, he does numerous watercolor portraits of fellow patients and possibly a self-portrait.
Bicycle trip to Florida, to visit Kay and Frank Baisden, and to paint with Baisden (December.) Contact with Schuyler Jackson and Laura Riding in Florida and with the psychiatrist Norman Cameron at Shearwater. Large painting entitled Map of Horn Island (WL 110) done for his brother Peter and sister-in-law Patricia.
Trip to New Orleans. Upon his return he paints scenes from Mardi Gras, zoo animals (A 30-31), and Under the Umbrella (Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.) Bitten by a water mocassin on Horn Island.
Death of Annette McConnell Anderson. Frank Baisden organizes an exhibition of “Fledgling Birds” at Hunter Museum, Chattanooga, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery in Memphis, and Jackson, Mississippi.
Weathers Hurricane Betsy on Horn Island. Trip to New Orleans, where he paints tropical birds and other animals at zoo. November 30, dies in New Orleans. from complications arising from an operation for lung cancer. Buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Ocean Springs.
“The World of Walter Anderson,” a 587-piece retrospective, curated by Robert J. McKnight, opens at the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. Traveled 1968-69.
Agnes Grinstead publishes her memoir Approaching the Magic Hour, begun in 1967, edited by Patti Carr Black.
Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, opens to the public.