I first discovered the talent of Walter Anderson through my online travels with Mississippi riverman John Ruskey. There is something captivating about the art of both men that brings to mind nature in all its' glory and majesty. Weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, efforts continue to salvage lives, homes and the timeless art of a man devoted to his craft. Ocean Springs, Mississipi took the brunt of the storm along with other cities along the coast of that state. It is there that the museum featuring the works of Walter Anderson still stands, though a bit waterlogged and storm weary. Volunteers are busy with a salvage and restoration project aimed at preserving the watercolor legacy of an artisan who claimed his muse in the Delta.
"Walter Inglis Anderson was born in 1903 in New Orleans to George Walter Anderson, a grain merchant, and Annette McConnell Anderson, an artist. His mother’s love of art, music, and literature strongly influenced Walter (called "Bob" by his friends and family) and his two brothers, Peter and Mac. Anderson was educated at a private boarding school, then attended the Parsons Institute of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where his drawings earned him a scholarship for study abroad. He traveled throughout Europe and was particularly impressed with the cave art he saw at Les Eyzies in France. His wide-ranging interests included extensive reading of poetry, history, natural science and art history. He pursued man’s search for meaning in books of folklore, mythology, philosophy, and epics of voyage and discovery. Anderson returned to Ocean Springs and married a Radcliffe graduate, Agnes (Sissy) Grinstead, started a family, and went to work creating molds and decorating earthenware at Shearwater Pottery, founded by his brother Peter. Anderson felt that an artist should create affordable work that brought pleasure to others, and in return, the artist should be able to pursue his artistic passions. In the 1930s, he worked on regional Works Progress Administration mural projects and began to view his role in art as a muralist."
In the late 1930's Anderson was diagnosed with a mental illness that required several hospitalizations, known these days as chronic depression. During the recovery period at his father-in-law's plantation home in Gautier, Mississippi he created some of his most dynamic works reflecting the scope of his talent and his passion for art history. Anderson spent the last 18 years of his life living a solitary existence with the understanding of his wife and children. He lived alone in a cottage and rowed the twelve miles to Horn Island where he often lived under his boat for weeks at a time while drawing and painting the nature that he so loved. His works were later found scattered here and there among the dunes and quiet spots that brought him solace as he endured extremes of weather and documented the habits of the many species of wildlife that he shared his life with.
Want to know more? Visit the city of Ocean Springs.
Information and images courtesy of:
Walter Anderson Museum of Art
510 Washington Avenue
Ocean Springs, MS 39564