Sunday, October 17, 2010

View of Galveston Harbor, 1874, by William Aiken Walker

View of Galveston Harbor, 1874, by William Aiken Walker

William Aiken Walker (1839–1921) is an American artist who was born to an Irish Protestant father and a mother of South Carolina background in Charleston, South Carolina in 1839. In 1842, when his father died, Walker's mother moved the family to Baltimore, Maryland, where they remained until returning to Charleston in 1848.

In 1861 Walker enlisted in the Confederate army and was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines (1862). After recuperating, he was transferred back to Charleston. After the Civil War, Walker moved to Baltimore, where he produced small paintings of the “Old South” to sell as tourist souvenirs.

He is best known for his paintings depicting the lives of poor black emancipated slaves, especially sharecroppers in the post-Reconstruction American South. He travelled up and down the southern seaboard, selling his paintings locally in towns and cities he visited. He showed his work in galleries, shops and salons along the way, or he would set up his easel on busy street corners and sell his harbor views, portraits and genre scenes to tourists and townies. Walker continued painting until his death on January 3, 1921 in Charleston.

Walker lived and painted in Texas for several years during the 1870s.  He arrived in Galveston in 1874 and spent most of his time there. He painted the harbor from the water, resulting in the expansive "View of Galveston Harbor" (29 X 63 inches). He advertised this large painting in the Galveston Daily News on October 28, 1874.

In 1907, R. D. Bowen of Paris, Texas, gave the painting to the Rosenberg Library after displaying it for years in the office of his Galveston business associate, E. J. Hart.

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