Frank Walter

Year and place of birth: 1926, Antigua Date of death: 2009 , Antigua
Frank Walter Figurative 030 front post conservation

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Frank Walter, born Francis Archibald Wentworth Walter, was a prolific visual artist and writer from the Caribbean Island of Antigua. His mixed-race descent, from both slave owners and enslaved people, led to a lifelong struggle with identity. A quiet and private person, he spent most of his life surrounded by the wilderness of nature, away from others. This is reflected in his deep connection to the geography of his home as well as in his artistic vision.

In 1948, at the age of 22, he became Antigua’s first sugar plantation manager of colour. In 1953, fuelled by a desire to modernise agriculture, he embarked on an industrial Grand Tour of Great Britain and the Continent in order to study mechanical and technological innovations. Here he was confronted with the discrimination and prejudice of postcolonial society and survived through menial jobs under conditions of hunger and cold, suffering from hallucinations as a result. This racial exclusion informed an obsessive interest in his white European, aristocratic lineage, which he built into complex family trees and heraldic paintings.

Walter returned to the Caribbean in 1961 only to have the innovations he had acquired in Europe rejected as the sugar industry declined. Exposed to institutional corruption, the land he retreated to in Dominica was confiscated so he returned to Antigua where he worked as a photographer, frame maker and artist. In 1993, unable to conform to urban life, he settled upon the invitation of a cousin on family land where he built a home and studio, pursuing the most intense period of creativity until his death in 2009.

In 2013, Walter’s work was exhibited for the first time in a gallery context at Ingleby in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2017, he represented Antigua and Barbados in their inaugural national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Italy. His first retrospective took place in 2020 at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany.

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