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MAR 5, 2022 - SEP 12, 2022

In 1949, Walter Anderson’s linoleum block prints were featured in a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. This exhibition focused primarily on the fairy tale blocks that Anderson created as an accompaniment to his depictions of the natural world. These linoleum block prints were groundbreaking in the history of art, preceding Picasso’s work of a similar size by several years. Anderson was fascinated with the history of folk tales, which are both regionally distinct and universally understood. He writes that, “although they are told by the people and claimed and possessed by the people, they have a tendency to become all one tale, one solar myth, and whirl back to the sun as the source of all life.”

Just as folk tales are “told by the people,” Walter Anderson created his block prints to be owned by everyday collectors who might not have exorbitant wealth but who had an “appetite for beauty.” These large scrolls were printed on the back of discontinued wallpaper, and sold for a dollar a foot.

Through line and shape, Anderson brought these timeless stories into the environments of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In these depictions, sirens burst forth from Southern swamps, princesses find beasts beneath golden sunflower heads, and thumb-sized heroines float through bayous accompanied by red-winged black birds and fiddler crabs. By translating these narratives through a coastal lens, Anderson reasserted his belief in the myth and magic of the region, which he found around every corner.

Our curatorial team has chosen to take a playful approach to the fairy tale block prints. As you walk through the gallery you will be greeted by life-sized replicas of some of the most beloved characters from fairytales . . . and meet a few new ones along the way. Enchanted cats, crafty genies, and bashful toads spring to life in this exhibition, breathing new life into the classic images Anderson created in the 1940s. 


In 1941, Walter Anderson moved with his wife, Sissy, and two children to his wife’s family home, Oldfields, in Gautier, Mississippi. During 1941-1947, Anderson draws inspiration for his artwork from his children, their adventures, and their love of fairytales. Oldfields gave birth to Anderson’s most prolific period including the calendar drawings, pan and ink illustrations, the Oldfields Murals, and the notable linoleum block prints.

As the artist matured professionally during this time, he learned to fill his image surface – activating the bounds of his materials. Figures and scenes circle around Walter Anderson's decorated pottery. Racoons lounge within the confines of a sheet of paper. In his linoleum block prints, figures twist and contort to fill the tall and thin sheets of wallpaper. His whimsical, detailed interpretations dance throughout his physical materials.

Walter Anderson also mastered the use of positive and negative space, using the technique to define the shape and character of his subjects. This technique was central to the process of linoleum block carving where Anderson would remove the negative space to reveal the positive. This method also overlapped in the late artists’ philosophy for life, as Anderson believed that in life and nature, absence was an important presence.

Exhibition schedule presented by

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Modern Scroll Print in Color sponsored by

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