Walter Inglis Anderson
Everything I See is Strange and New
In Approaching the Magic Hour: Memories of Walter Anderson, written by Anderson's wife, Agnes Grinstead Anderson, the author quotes her husband as saying, "The heart is the thing that counts, the mingling of my heart with the heart of the wild bird; to become one with the thing I see." . Beginning January 13, 2005, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art will present Walter Inglis Anderson: Everything I See is Strange and New, a national retrospective of the artist's work celebrating the many subjects and places Anderson saw and experienced.
The Ogden Museum installation will include approximately 145 works by the artist including paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, furniture, pottery and sculpture. The exhibition will remain on display through April 17, 2005, encompassing the Museum's entire fifth floor. The Ogden Museum's installation will expand upon the exhibition of Anderson's work presented by the Smithsonian Institution September 25, 2003, the centennial year of the artist's birth, through January 11, 2004. The Smithsonian's presentation received extensive critical praise, welcoming over 300,000 visitors through its extended run. The Ogden Museum's exhibition is being organized and presented as part of the Museum's ongoing collaboration with the Walter Anderson Museum of Art and the Anderson family.
In a review of the Smithsonian Institution's exhibition, Washington Post critic Paul Richard stated, "The makers of great American watercolors - Winslow, Homer, John Singer Sargent, John Marin, Charles Demuth - are a select few. Anderson is worthy of inclusion in that company." Describing the artist as a natural, Richard wrote, "Vincent Van Gogh is the most famous painter in America, and here's this Mississippian whose light-struck pictures throb, as do the disturbed Dutchman's, with furious, methodical ecstasy, and are as American as can be."
As a Southern artist, Anderson has been included as a critical part of the Roger Ogden Collection for years, and his works are now featured in the Ogden Museum's permanent Collection. A gallery in the Museum remains dedicated to the artist's work. This expanded exhibition further solidifies the partnership and commitment the Ogden Museum has to the Anderson family and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, as well as to Shearwater Pottery, the family business established by Anderson's brother Peter in 1928, which still continues as a traditional family pottery. It also gives the Museum another opportunity to highlight the rich cultural area that encompasses the Gulf Coast, along the I-10 corridor.
In addition to the Ogden Museum Collection and the Smithsonian Institution, other permanent collections holding Anderson's work include the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Mississippi Museum of Art, and the Mobile Museum of Art, to name a few.
More Critical acclaim for the "Van Gogh of the South"
Described as "an authentic genius," by Clarus Backes in the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine, the author also stated, "Since the days of Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh the world has seen nobody else quite like him." About Anderson's watercolors, Memphis art critic Guy Northrup wrote that they were, "the most original and exciting works in this medium to be found in America since the rise of John Marin." In 1999, the writer of "Capturing the Magic of the Gulf Coast" in The Chronicle of Higher Education noted that he was in the "presence of genius" when he viewed the murals at the Ocean Springs Community Center, comparing Anderson's mural to the journals of Meriwether Lewis for their boldness and sense of wonder, stating that his paintings "pass the test of greatness." Patti Carr Black, author of Art in Mississippi, 1720 - 1980, called him the most outstanding artist the South has produced.
"With growing recognition of his mastery by national art critics, curators and historians, and a major presentation of his work at the Smithsonian Institution, the Ogden Museum welcomes this opportunity to bring Anderson back to his place of birth through this important exhibition," says J. Richard Gruber, Director of the Ogden Museum. "We hope to advance his well-deserved recognition as an important artist in the pantheon of American art, and leading twentieth century artist, highlighting his strong ties to New Orleans and his significance as an artist from the American South."
His artistic output was prolific, although much of his work he either lost or destroyed. He painted watercolors and oils, drew in pen and ink, pencil and crayon, and painted murals. He sculpted in wood, carved furniture, cut large linoleum blocks for printing, carved and decorated earthenware.
"As is the case with many revered artists, the awareness of Anderson's work and critical acclaim for his work has steadily grown since his death," says David Houston, Chief Curator at the Ogden Museum. "And as comparisons of his work to such artists as Van Gogh, Maurin, Homer and Sargent increase, his significance in the broader context of American art and Southern art continues to grow as well. As a Southern regionalist, he was an American visionary, much like Charles Burchfield and Arthur Dove." Houston is working with the Walter Anderson Museum of Art's Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Dr. Patricia Pinson, to expand the original exhibition to include the New Orleans focus.
Ties to New Orleans
The life and work of Anderson would not have its "strange richness" were it not for the cultural vitality of the New Orleans family in which he was born in 1903. He was one born to George Walter Anderson, a well-educated, prosperous grain merchant, and Annette McConnell, who came from a prominent and civic-minded family. His mother was also an artist, studying at Newcomb's School of Art. The family immersed itself in the arts and craft movement, in music and literature, in myth and mythology, subjects that greatly influenced Anderson and his three brothers from their earliest years. The city itself also proved nourishing to Anderson's soul, with its rich culture, historic architecture and lush surroundings.
Living in the Uptown neighborhood near Audubon Park, Anderson attended R. M. Lusher Elementary School and Isidore Newman Manual Training School (today Isidore Newman School),
where in he took classes in wood-working and carpentry. The family also summered in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, which ultimately became Anderson's family home and another great influence. Yet, throughout his life, Anderson returned again and again to his city of birth, often by bicycle, canoe or on foot, for inspiration or simply to pick up art supplies. It was in New Orleans where the artist eventually died in 1965, one year after his mother's death.
Anderson attended the Parsons Institute of Design in New York, and in 1924 enrolled in the influential Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied drawing and painting under Arthur B. Carles, Henry McCarter, Hugh Breckenridge and Daniel Garber. For his talents he received the Packard Award for Animal Studies and a prestigious Cresson scholarship for travel in Europe. In the summer of 1927 he went to France and Spain, during which time he immersed himself in poetry, history, natural science and art history. He continued his study of folklore, mythology, and philosophy, as well as epics of voyage and discovery, passions and interests that inspired his work throughout his career.
Anderson returned to America, completing his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1928. He settled in Ocean Springs and began his artistic career creating molds and decorating earthenware at Shearwater Pottery, remaining there for eight years. He married Agnes "Sissy" Grinstead in 1933 and started a family. In the 1930s he also received a commission from the Public Works of Art project to paint a series of six murals for the Ocean Springs High School. Three of those panels will be included in the Ogden Museum's installation.
Among his many works, less well known are his paintings from brief trips back to New Orleans, where he detailed the city's life and pulse, including the unloading of cargo along the Mississippi River, the color and frivolity of the Mardi Gras, the streetcars and street life. Anderson was known to bicycle from Ocean Springs to New Orleans, and for canoeing in the Mississippi River.
"It is important to recognize and celebrate New Orleans as Anderson's birthplace and as an early influence on his artistic palette," says Gruber. "The exhibition will include many works depicting his hometown, important works that will surprise New Orleanians who may have known him and his work well, as well as those who will become familiar with him through this presentation."
Today, the painter, watercolorist and naturalist is acknowledged for his enormous artistic output and the superb quality of his artistic efforts. In all of his work, Anderson is recognized for evoking a "sense of place" that is at once naturalistically accurate and yet universal in its poetic and artistic appeal. This "sense of place" which permeates the Ogden Museum's exhibition Everything I See is New and Strange, is also an important theme explored throughout the Museum.
Providing the framework for the exhibition are five critical period's in the artist's career, namely:
" Student and Early Professional Years: 1920s and 1930s - During this phase, Anderson began developing aspects of his style, such as use of repetition. It was also in the late 1930s that he began to battle mental illness.
" War Years at Oldfields: 1940 - 1945 - After receiving treatment for his initial bouts with mental illness, Anderson and his family lived at Oldfields, his wife's family home in Gautier, Mississippi. This proved to be one of his happiest, most productive periods.
" Linoleum Block Prints and Travel: 1945 - 1950 - Two constants in his life, traveling and keeping logbooks, marked these years, with travel to exotic locales, such as Hong Kong, Tibet, China and Costa Rica, as well as long excursions by bicycle to Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee, and his city of birth, New Orleans.
" Murals and Still Lifes: 1950 - 1960 - During these years, Anderson began secluding himself more and more, preferring to retreat from those closest to him as well as the general public.
" Island Years: 1950 - 1965 - During the last years of Anderson's life, while continuing to work at Shearwater Pottery, he spent extended periods living and painting on the coastal barrier islands, particularly Horn Island. Despite a constant battle with the elements, Anderson did thousands of drawing and watercolors of the sea, sand and air. The island was not only an inexhaustible source of imgs but was also the place that reflected most intensely the power and vulnerability of nature.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Ogden Museum is planning a series of educational programming, symposia and special events celebrating Anderson's life and work, some in collaboration with the Anderson family, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and Shearwater Pottery. The Museum will also premiere the documentary "Walter Anderson: Realizations of an Artist," currently in its final production phase, produced by Huracan Pictures, LLC, and the film-making team Winston Riley and David Wolf.
Accompanying the exhibition is the catalogue, The Art of Walter Anderson, with research and contributions from noted scholars including: Linda Crocker Simmons, Curator Emeritus, the Corcoran Museum, Washington, D.C.; Judith Stein, former Curator of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia; Patricia Pinson, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Ocean Springs, Mississippi; Susan Larsen, former Curator of Collections at the Whitney Museum, New York, Rockland, Maine; Colin Eisler, Institute of the Arts, New York University, New York; and, Marcus Burke, Curator of Paintings/Drawings, The Spanish Society, New York.
Exhibition Serves as the Gulf Coast Premiere of Retrospective Originally Presented in Washington, D.C. by the Smithsonian Institution
Ogden Museum Exhibition Will Emphasize Anderson's Ties to New Orleans