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Artist Biography

Martha Walter benefitted from an excellent arts education: first studying under William Merritt Chase at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and after the Cresson Traveling Scholarship sent her to France, she attended the Grande Chaumiere and Academy Julien in Paris. Seeking to break from academic traditions she, along with several other American women, created a private studio on the Rue de Bagneux. Her training with Chase is evident in the saturated colors and plein-air subject matter in her early Impressionist work.

Though she returned to the United States at the outbreak of World War I, taking up a teaching position at Chase’s New York School of Art, Walter continued to visit Paris throughout her life. She exhibited works at two Salons, in 1904 and 1924, and was given a solo show at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1922. Her outdoor scenes, both of city and country life, were vividly colored and somewhat abstracted—though the brushwork patterns never obscured her subject matter. In addition to painting idyllic coastline scenes, Walter turned her eye to more impoverished subjects: the immigrants at Ellis Island, poor children in rural Tennessee, and later, market scenes from North African cities. The palette changed according to the setting, but Walter’s strong, well-chosen colors were continually alluring. She was also was one of the few American Impressionists who used black in her palette.

The artist maintained an unflagging interest in figural painting, and capturing the human landscape.  Walter delighted in painting beach scenes in New York and Massachusetts, and Coney Island provided an ideal subject for her with its bright colors and masses of frolicking children. Her loose rendering of form gives the work an abstract quality, and the quick brushstrokes reinforce the sense of fun and vitality.

Walter’s works can be found in the collections of The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; and the Terra Museum at Giverny in France, among others.

References:

William Gerdts, et al, Pennsylvania Impressionism (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002)