by Chris Jones (SHS)
Walter Inglis Anderson was born on September 29, 1903, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to George Walter Anderson and Annette McConnell Anderson. His father was a grain merchant and his mother was an artist. (Logs11-12) He was the second of three brothers, the eldest being Peter and the youngest, Mac.
He attended St. John’s School in Manilus, New York, from the ages of eight to fourteen when his schooling was interrupted by World War I. After that he went to Manual Training School in New Orleans, Louisiana (Logs 12). He then went on to the Parson’s Institute in New York.
He finished his education at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. (WAMA) While he was at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he won the Packard Award for winning an animal drawing contest against the entire student body (Logs 2). He later won a scholarship to study abroad and went to France. While he was in France, he was particularly impressed with the cave paintings, which noticeably influenced his drawing style.
He went back to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to live. There he met Agnes Grinstead and married her. Together they had four children: Mary, Billy, Leif, and John.
Anderson worked for his brother Peter at Shearwater pottery in Ocean Springs. During the Depression he worked for the WPA painting murals. Then, in 1937, he was diagnosed a schizophrenic and spent three years in and out of hospitals (WAMA).
Every time he was placed in a mental institution, he escaped. When he was in Whitfield, he knotted up his bed sheets and climbed out, leaving drawings of birds on the walls (Logs 12). Then he moved to Gautier, Mississippi, to live on his wife’s father’s estate, “Oldfields,” with his family.
He left his family to go live in a cottage on the Shearwater pottery compound, and his family moved nearby. He spent the next eighteen years traveling back and forth from Horn Island. During this time he created most of his existing art work. He painted pictures of everything in nature that he possibly could.
Anderson died on November 30, 1965. Most of his art work was destroyed because he had no regard for his work. He simply didn’t care about his work after he was through with it. A lot of his work that survived was just because he was a bad housekeeper and didn’t clean up after himself (WAMA).
In 1989, Anderson was posthumously awarded the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art opened in Ocean Springs in 1991.
In the photo below, John Anderson, youngest son of Walter Anderson, surveys the destroyed property and art work. Photo by Paul F. Jacobs
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina damaged or destroyed much of Walter Anderson’s work which was housed in the concrete vault on the Anderson’s property in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. A group of professors and students from Mississippi State University (and others) volunteered their time and facilities to help save and preserve Anderson’s work.