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An American First: Walter Anderson's Blockprints

February 11, 2005 - June 5, 2005


(above: Walter Anderson, Thumbelina, blockprint)


The most important blockprints of Mississippi artist Walter Anderson, who was the first 20th century artist to make prints by taking linoleum and cutting it into designs as large as 20 feet long, will be on view at the Walter Anderson Museum from February 11, 2005 - June 5, 2005.

Creating 200 blocks and the prints pulled from them, Anderson worked with an unheard of scale, and used this method to stunning effect. The exhibition brings together several of the 200 blocks with an explanation of the methods he used as well as the stories they reference. It will include several hand-colored prints from the Ocean Springs Library, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Family of Walter Anderson as well as the Museum holdings. The display will incorporate an explanatory panel case into the exhibit, which will show how to make a linoleum block and print. (right: Walter Anderson, Turkey, blockprint)

In the 1940s, Anderson created a series of linoleum block prints which he intended for the decoration of homes. Hand printed and individually painted, he offered the panels to the public at one dollar a foot. Encompassing visions of the Gulf Coast world and tales from the extensive prototypical treasure of legends and myth, this exhibit will feature several of the fairytales, also with an explanatory text on the fable and its origins.

As expert and joyous a craftsman as he was an artist, Walter Anderson believed that beauty should be an intrinsic part of daily life, and that one should surround oneself with objects that are functional, esthetically pleasing, and affordable. He felt that there should be basic, fine ornamentation that competed with the prices at five-and-ten-cent stores. "What about a well-designed fairy tale for a child's room?", he asked his wife. During this era, stores were full of rolls of extra battleship linoleum. Purchasing all that he could, Anderson cut it into huge pieces which he carved with complex motifs. In this postwar age, a friend had sent him large numbers of washed out wallpaper from excess stock that had been saved during the war, and Anderson utilized the back for printing the blocks. He worked assiduously in his attic day and night. His wife, Sissy, noted that daily, she would find a mountain of linoleum chips at the foot of the attic stairs.

The block prints as well as other of Anderson's carvings were exhibited at the Brooks Gallery in Memphis in 1948 and then traveled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York in 1949. This was the only important exhibit held during his lifetime.

"At the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, we continue our mission of sharing with the world the infinite variety of the work of Walter Anderson, and the various media in which he was skilled", said Marilyn Lyons, executive director of the museum. "We are especially pleased about the educational component of this exhibition, as this is an invaluable display for students and craftspeople."

"We are delighted that we are collaborating with the intern program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Jackson County", said Patricia Pinson, Ph.D., curator. "Erica Peterson is conducting research on the history of linoblock printing in American art and Walter Anderson's place in it. She is also exploring the tales that Walter Anderson used as well as their origins."

Simultaneously with the opening night of blockprints, the exhibit Mardi Gras: A Celebration, featuring the dazzling creations of Carter Church, will have its closing night party. Mr. Church, whose designs are legendary, will make a personal appearance.


(above: Walter Anderson, Waves, blockprint)


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