Of the three Anderson artists — Walter, Peter and James McConnell, or “Mac” — Walter usually gets much more attention. The prolific and complex artist who found more companionship in nature than among people seems a stark contrast to his more “grounded” brothers.
But while the three Andersons had their own personalities and styles, they also had a connection that wasn’t based solely on blood. The pure need to create art was common to all three, and a new exhibition that showcases their love has opened at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs. “Brothers of Craft: The Art of Peter, Walter and ‘Mac’ Anderson” is on display through February.
The main area of the museum features the collaboration among the three brothers, said WAMA curator Mattie Codling. Peter was the potter of the three, and Mac and Walter decorated. The brothers’ interaction is illustrated by examples such as a vase made by Peter and painted by Walter. In another example, Walter’s “Broken Copper Red Pot” watercolor shows the indentations left by Peter’s fingers inside the pot he had crafted.
Old photos show the three brothers together as children, one taken as the boys sat in a wooden crate. A more formal studio portrait shows the boys in summer whites but still lets their young personalities shine.
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Three galleries are used to showcase each brother’s work. Mac’s presents his combination of beauty and practicality — utilitarian art, a hallmark of the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century.
“He lived with his artwork,” Codling said.
This is the Anderson who not only worked at Shearwater, but also at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Delta Shipyard in New Orleans and Ferson Optics in Ocean Springs as a lens corrector, and he built his family’s rammed-earth house himself. Among the exhibits here are a handcrafted table and bench and a ceramic plate entitled “Crabber,” jiggered and glazed by Peter and decorated by Mac.
Peter’s gallery puts the spotlight on his pottery. The eldest Anderson brother was the backbone and original potter of Shearwater Pottery, which opened in the late 1920s.
“Peter’s main focus was Shearwater,” Codling said. “He was trying to make a profit during the Depression.”
To that end, he also combined aesthetics with utilitarian objects in his case pottery as well as figurines designed to appeal to tourists. Nevertheless, the artist in him shines through.
“His philosophy was that form and glaze should complement each other,” Codling said. “His pottery was meant to be functional.”
Simple lines, strong sides and beautiful shapes are hallmarks of Peter’s work.
Walter’s work can be found in the long gallery.
“It’s a timeline of Walter’s development,” Codling said.
His gallery shows the evolution from oil painting to murals. For example, there is a sketch of a mural he painted for Ocean Springs High School, a WPA-built school.
“These cartoons are painted on rough wood,” Codling said.
In the art lexicon, cartoon refers to a full-sized drawing in preparation for a final work, a more complete version of a study. The final work can be seen in the main area of the museum, where it is on permanent display.
In the 1940s, Walter and his family lived at Oldfields, homeplace of his wife, Sissy.
“This was his most prolific period,” Codling said. “He had freedom here and you can see the joy of everyday living in his works. It was a sort of pastoral lifestyle. He converted an attic at Oldfields into a studio, and he made blockprints there to make money.”
A big purpose for that venture was to save a stand of virgin timber behind Oldfields. Family members wanted to sell the timber, but Walter was against it. He wasn’t able to raise enough money, however.
“His first trip to the island was the day they cut the forest,” Codling said.
Some of the Oldfields murals are included in his gallery. Anderson’s father-in-law forbade him to paint the walls in the great hall, so Anderson painted murals and attached them to the walls with tacks.
Anderson was known for using materials at hand. Perhaps a lesser-known material is crayons.
“It’s so telling that he’s using crayons here,” Codling said, referring to some of the works. “You can just picture him picking up his kids’ crayons and thinking, ‘Hmm!’ ”
If you go
What: Brothers of Craft: The Art of Peter, Walter and ‘Mac’ Anderson exhibition. “Throughout this exhibition, the three brothers are featured as individuals and as a collective. By displaying their work individually, one is able to discern the interconnectedness of their work,” a release from the Walter Anderson Museum of Art states.
Where: Walter Anderson Museum of Art, 510 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs
When: Now until February 2017
Info: Museum hours are 9:30 to 4:30 Monday through Saturday and 12:30 to 4:30 Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, students, AAA members and military, and $5 for children ages 5 to 15.
Related: The 38th Annual Peter Anderson Festival is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 5-6, rain or shine, in downtown Ocean Springs.