Date of Award
Dr. Jennifer Fayard
Dr. Randall Wight
Dr. Johnny Wink
Walter “Bob” Inglis Anderson: naturist, painter, and ceramicist. Some say he was mad, while others were inclined to say that he was merely passionate regarding nature and his watercolors. However, he is highly regarded as one of the most talented artists east of the Mississippi. In the following pages, his life, art, and battles with a mental illness will be spread out and investigated closely with the primary goal of observing whether his bouts of illness affected his art. To investigate this relationship, it is necessary to examine Walter Anderson’s early life and art, along with his progression into mental illness and changes in his later art.
Leif Anderson, one of Walter’s daughters, recalls Bob writing the phrase “beauty is born of the rain” as he reflected on his life’s toils while making a profound statement about some of nature’s greatest masterpieces. After all, the vast Grand Canyon was caused by water erosion, the brilliantly colored poppy flower must have hydration, and the lush, mystic greenery found on the Washington state coast requires twelve feet of water per year. In a similar way, the metaphorical rain that they experience, the hardships, turmoil, and storms of life define people. In this memoir of Anderson’s life and art, the reoccurring theme is that of the hardship that births unique creativity--linocuts, woodwork, ceramics, murals, charcoals, watercolors, oils, journals, and poetry in only a way that Bob can express.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of some, Bob’s personal hardships with mental illness outweighed his artistic genius, resulting in his being looked down upon or shunned. Due to the comments and gossiping whispers, the naturally introverted Bob completely withdrew from society. Even his family had to rely on seeing him in his skiff in the Mississippi Sound as the only way of knowing that he was okay.
Mid-twentieth century Ocean Springs, Mississippi, was an artist’s paradise sprawling with untouched nature. The beaches of the Mississippi coast and winding bayous edged with tall grass with fingering outlets creep miles inland. Trees drip with dreamy Spanish moss that canopy the roads with a picturesque look into the past, before industry and the impudence of humanity. Pelicans, Shearwaters, Gopher tortoises, and Horseshoe crabs call the salty bay water their home while alligators rule the fresh water bayous. There is a wild beauty there; unique to itself that is subtle to a quick glance but apparent to intentional observers. Bob was the latter and hid himself in the wild beauty, developing a relationship with the land and sea that freed him from social ties.
Yet, Bob was not always isolated. Though his family and childhood may have been a little different from the norm, he was a charming, social creature whose life story is one that needs to be told. Therefore, the beginning of his life, with a sketch of his family background is the best place to start. Bob Anderson’s art began humbly enough with pencil, charcoal, or pen sketches comprised mostly of animals with the exception of a few oil portraits. He also enjoyed a little bit of woodcarving, making simplified figurines or little trinket boxes.
Huff, Chloe Evelyn, "Beauty is Born of the Rain: Walter Inglis Anderson's Art and Isolation" (2015). Honors Theses. 169.