The Walter Anderson Museum of Art
The Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, surrounds you
with the life and love of Walter Anderson and his art, encompassing whimsical
scenes from nature, murals of everyday hustle and bustle and mirrors into the
soul of a man whose mind was filled with artistic whims.
Walter Anderson, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, was introduced to art at a
young age. His mother was an avid artist and insisted that her three sons,
Peter, Walter, and Mac, would all become artists. Her husband, a grain farmer,
insisted that if they pursued art, they must be able to make a living from it.
The family relocated to Ocean Springs in 1918, and laid the foundation for the
family studio. Each of the boys was sent to prestigious schools of art and
trained under the skilled hands of some of the most admired artists of their
time. Upon completion of their training, each returned home to take on the
family business, Shearwater Pottery, which opened in the 1920s. The eldest,
Peter, became the master potter, and Walter and Mac returned to decorate pottery
as well as create paintings, sculptures, “widgets” and other marketable works of
art for the studio.
Walter did more than paint pottery during his career; he also was a writer, a
muralist, and a sculptor, but he is best known for his paintings and sketches.
Anderson’s work is classified into the Shearwater period, Oldfields period, and
the Horn Island period; each period represented by a is a collection of
distinctive works by Walter which define a time in his life and his art.
The Shearwater period includes many pieces of pottery thrown by his brother and
decorated by Walter. He and his brother Mac began producing small figurines they
called widgets, as popularity of the widgets grew, Walter found less and less
time to paint, which was his true passion. This was also the time when Walter
became infatuated with murals and designated himself a muralist.
After his initial battle with mental illness from 1937-1940, Walter moved with
his wife and children into his father-in-law’s antebellum home in Gautier known
as “Oldfields”. The tranquil setting provided much-needed inspiration for
Walter’s creative urge, and during this period, he became known for his vivid
still image portraits. He also painted canvas murals large enough to cover the
interior walls of Oldfields after his father-in-law refused to let him paint on
the large open walls of the home.
When Walter left his family in 1945 to live in solitude on the Shearwater
compound, he began making frequent treks to Horn Island, an uninhabited barrier
island some 12 miles off the main shoreline of the Mississippi Coast. Walter
would spend weeks at a time on the island painting the elements of nature that
surrounded him. He desired to become one with nature in hopes to view nature as
it really is and, therefore, would live primitively on the island so not to
disrupt its essence. He would bring only a few bare essentials and his art
supplies, and work in the elements and sleep under his skiff at night. He spent
most of his time here the last 18 years of his life before dying at age 62 of
lung cancer. During his time at Horn Island, he spent much of his time
journaling, sketching, and painting. He desired most to find the purpose of man
and his intended role in nature. These pieces are the final series in Walter’s
collection and include some of his most well-known pieces.
The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, which opened in 1991, is home to the largest
collection of art by Walter Anderson and his brothers. Many of its collection
pieces from Walter, which including journal entries, transpired during his time
on Horn Island; these were recovered from Walter’s cottage home on the
Shearwater compound after his death. The museum also includes in its permanent
collection many pieces from the work of Peter and Mac Anderson including
pottery, figurines, paintings, sketches, and other phenomenal works of art. It
also presents pieces from Shearwater Pottery, which is still open today. It is
the primary mission of the museum to celebrate, interpret, and promote the work
of the Anderson brothers; the museum also boasts the works of several other
acclaimed artists which are displayed in time-limited exhibits.
For more information on the Walter Anderson Museum of Art please visit: