Fortune's Favorite Child: The Uneasy Life of Walter Anderson

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Walter Anderson (1903-1965) was a prolific, fiercely individual artist renowned for his matchless style, his lonely independence, and his astonishingly creative works of art. Devoted to the beauty of the natural world, Anderson emblazoned the events of his everyday life into art that expressed a unique and absorbing vision.

This compelling biography, published in celebration of his centennial, draws on Anderson's voluminous journals and graphic works, the previously unpublished ...

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Overview

Walter Anderson (1903-1965) was a prolific, fiercely individual artist renowned for his matchless style, his lonely independence, and his astonishingly creative works of art. Devoted to the beauty of the natural world, Anderson emblazoned the events of his everyday life into art that expressed a unique and absorbing vision.

This compelling biography, published in celebration of his centennial, draws on Anderson's voluminous journals and graphic works, the previously unpublished papers of family members and friends, and archival materials from several American museums.

In his creative diversity he was both an artist and a naturalist who left the art world paintings, prints, murals, journals, wood carvings, ceramic works, poems, aphorisms, and pen-and-ink illustrations of literary works. Despite poverty and mental anguish, Anderson called himself "Fortune's favorite child." Few artists have been more grateful than Anderson for the moments of artistic truth extracted from adversity, isolation, and illness.

He was the second of three sons of a good-natured grain merchant and a strong-willed New Orleans society woman who encouraged the children to devote their lives to art. After studying in New York, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in Europe, Anderson returned to the South and settled in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to live by his art. During the Depression he earned a meager living by decorating pottery and designing figurines for his family's pottery, Shearwater.

Spending his life on the edge of the art world and the edge of society, Anderson fell into many intense adventures, for which his community regarded him as an eccentric. In 1937 he suffered a devastating attack of mental illness that foreshadowed a long battle with emotional turmoil. In an escape from a mental institution in Baltimore, he trekked a thousand miles homeward. Occasionally he lived in self-isolation on Horn Island. He sallied south to Costa Rica to hunt orchids. He rambled across China during the Maoist revolution.

In tracing a life that the artist himself regarded with gratitude and wonder, this biography recounts the story of Anderson's marriage and fatherhood, his bouts with illness, his creative periods of astonishing work, and his spells as a solitary rover expressing his artistic vision and searching for spiritual fulfillment.

Christopher Maurer, head of the department of Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is the author (with Maria Estrella Iglesias) of Dreaming in Clay on the Coast of Mississippi: Love and Art at Shearwater. His work has appeared in the New Republic, the New York Times, Hispanic Review, and El PaĆ­s (Madrid).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578065394
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 10/17/2003
  • Pages: 367
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 10.24 (h) x 1.33 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2004

    Fascinating!

    I was caught up in Anderson's world, both his genius and his madness. Maurer uses wonderful excerpts from Anderson's journals -- he was a consummate artist with words as with so many materials. His relationships with his wife, brothers, and especially mother are complicated and compelling, and leave you wondering how he created so much wonder while struggling with so much internal chaos. I couldn't put it down, and am now determined to go to Ocean Springs and see Anderson's work and home myself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2003

    Paul Richard, 'Washington Post', Oct. 25, 2003

    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. Here's this Mississippian whose light-struck pictures throb, as do [Van Gogh's] with furious methodical ecstasy, and are as American as can be. Art poured from Anderson as it does from such unstoppable producers as Red Grooms and Frank Stella. Anderson was a natural.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2003

    Paul Richard, The Washington Post, Oct. 25, 2003

    Art poured from Anderson as it does from such unstoppable producers as Red Grooms and Frank Stella. Anderson was a natural. Give him a log and he¿d carve a statue. Hand him a brush, point him toward a wall, and he¿d paint a mural. He worked ceaselessly. He wrote journals. He invented narratives... Anderson is not where he ought to be in America¿s attention... 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. Why isn¿t he famous too? 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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

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