Martha Walter

1875 - 1976

Martha Walter Bathing by the Big Rock LR

Martha Walter

Born in Philadelphia, Martha Walter was a well-known Philadelphia Impressionist who specialized in light hearted, colorful beach scenes, especially of Gloucester, Coney Island, Atlantic City and from along the French Coast.

She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy with William Merritt Chase Walter's early work shows the very strong influence of Chase and her use of rich saturated colors, combined with her adept application of black paint, was very successful. Black was a pigment extraordinarily difficult to master and often omitted in the general course of American Impressionism.

On a two-year traveling Cresson Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, she visited France, Spain, Italy and Holland and attended the Academie Grande Chaumiere and the Academie Julian in Paris. Finding the academy structure too confining, she established a studio in the Rue De Bagneaus and her painting captured the animation of the city and the light and color of seashore scenes. With the onset of World War I, she returned to the United States and set up a studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts, painting beach scenes. She also became intrigued with Ellis Island and painted people as they arrived in ethnic costume from other countries.

Her works had more spontaneity, as she concentrated on hues rather than subjects. In this sense she was once again in league with the French Impressionists who were frequently more concerned with the color recorded than with the form drawn. The subtle dissolution of forms tended to accentuate the predominant central theme in her works. Her figures did not suffer; they merely became more elusive.

Though influenced by the artists of both the European and American art worlds, she developed a style of painting that was uniquely Martha Walter, with bold dashing brush strokes in conjunction with total color control and well organized composition. Her style reflected the sensitivity of her European predecessors, but maintained a vigor which was definitely American.

Although well advanced in years, Martha Walter continued to paint until a few years before her death in 1976.