About Stuart Walker
Stuart Walker (1904-1940) was born in Lancaster, Kentucky in 1904. Soon afterwards the family moved to an Indiana farm, and he attended high school before joining the Navy at age fifteen. Almost immediately, he became very ill from a strep infection that was not properly treated and that developed into rheumatic fever, seriously damaging his heart.
Following his term with the Navy, he studied art at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, and later with Frank Schoonover in Wilmington, Delaware. Seeking a milder climate because of his chronic health condition, he moved to Albuquerque in 1925. There, he attended classes at UNM, and with friend and fellow artist Brooks Willis, he opened Wallis Studio, a commercial design studio.
Walker became president of the newly founded Art League of New Mexico around 1929.
Around 1935 through the Works Progress Administration, Walker completed a series of ten watercolors for the U.S. Forest Service, and he joined with Willis to complete a mural for the Bernalillo County Courthouse. Walker became interested in Modernist painting styles during the late 1920s and early 1930s when he was associating with other artists in Albuquerque and Santa Fe who shared this interest.
In the early 1930s Walker began to abstract landscapes — studies that led him to create non-objective canvases based on color, rhythm, and design. Walker’s shift was brought about, in part, by a study of Kandinsky’s early work, which also concentrated on abstracted landscape motifs, and by his awareness of Kandinsky’s Bauhaus works.
Stuart Walker was an original member of the Transcendental Painting Group founded in 1938 in Santa Fe. The members were Raymond Jonson, William Lumpkins, Emil Bisttram, Robert Gribbroek, Lawren Harris, Florence Miller, Agnes Pelton, H. Towner Pierce, and Walker. Walker developed a distinctive style with affinities to Art Deco and demonstrated a concern with strong structural elements that mixed geometric figures with more organic ones.
Characteristic of his work was the use of muted natural colors reflecting a sensibility of the New Mexico landscape.
In 1940, after two years of hospitalizations and failing health, he died. Walker’s death at the age of thirty-five was a sad loss to his Transcendental Painting Group friends, who arranged to have two memorial exhibitions, one at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe and a second at University of New Mexico’s Fine Arts Building sponsored by the Art League.