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Ecstasy: The Mystical Landscapes of Walter Anderson

June 26 - September 7, 2008


The Vero Beach Museum of Art is pleased to present the exhibition Ecstasy: The Mystical Landscapes of Walter Anderson opening in the Museum's Schumann Gallery on June 26, 2008 and continuing through September 7, 2008.

Walter Anderson, considered one of Mississippi's most outstanding artists, was a passionate, reclusive man, who was wholly absorbed in experiencing the natural world through his art. Anderson produced works as impressive in diversity as in aesthetic splendor. He worked in oil, watercolor, pencil, pen and ink. He sculpted in wood; carved furniture, cut intricate linoleum blocks for printing large panels and friezes, carved and decorated pottery, designed ceramics and painted wall murals. His growing reputation today is based, in part; on the brilliant watercolors he produced as a celebration and realization of nature on Horn Island off the Mississippi coast in the last eighteen years of his life. Ecstasy: The Mystical Landscapes of Walter Anderson showcases 54 of Anderson's watercolors, many of which have not been on exhibition before.

Anderson was born in New Orleans and studied at Parsons Institute in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He won the Cresson Award which enabled him to travel in France and Spain. When he returned to America he settled with his family in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where he would spend most of the rest of his life. In the Gulf Coast town he worked with his brothers as a designer and decorator at the family-owned business, Shearwater Pottery, and began his extraordinary development as an artist.


Artist Biography: Walter Inglis Anderson

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.

It was in the late 1930s that Anderson first succumbed to mental illness. He was diagnosed with severe depression and spent three years in and out of hospitals. Following his hospitalizations, Anderson joined his wife and small children at her father's antebellum home in Gautier, Mississippi. The pastoral tranquillity of the "Oldfields" plantation provided an ideal setting for recuperation. During this period, he rendered thousands of disciplined and compelling works of art that reflected his training, intellect, and extraordinary grasp of art history.

In 1947, with the understanding of his family, Anderson left his wife and children and embarked on a private and very solitary existence. He lived alone in a cottage on the Shearwater compound, and increased his visits to Horn Island, one of a group of barrier islands along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He would row the 12 miles in a small skiff, carrying minimal necessities and his art supplies. Anderson spent long periods of time on this uninhabited island over the last 18 years of his life. There he lived primitively, working in the open and sleeping under his boat, sometimes for weeks at a time.

He endured extreme weather conditions, from blistering summers to hurricane winds and freezing winters. He painted and drew a multitude of species of island vegetation, animals, birds, and insects, penetrating the wild thickets on hands and knees and lying in lagoons in his search to record his beloved island paradise. Anderson's obsession to "realize" his subjects through his art, to be one with the natural world instead of an intruder, created works that are intense and evocative.

Walter Anderson died at age 62 in a New Orleans hospital of lung cancer. Much of the work survived only by chance; it was discovered in drifts, like autumn leaves, throughout his cottage after his death. Those found treasures present the viewer today with a fascinating opportunity to share Anderson's vision.

- reproduced 2008 with permission from the Walter Anderson Museum of Art website

(above: Walter Inglis Anderson, Slash Pines, no date, Watercolor on paper. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Courtesy of the Family of Walter Anderson)


(above: Walter Inglis Anderson, Radiant Duck-Old Squaw, no date, Watercolor on paper. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Courtesy of the Family of Walter Anderson)


(above: Walter Inglis Anderson, Design of Two Rabbits, no date, Watercolor on paper. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, Courtesy of the Family of Walter Anderson)


(above: Walter Inglis Anderson, Camp Fire, no date, Watercolor on paper. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art)

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