Modern Tropical Flowers, Frank Walter, image courtesy Frank Walter Family (c) Kenneth M Milton, David Zwirner
Coconut Palm in Hurricane Sky (1975), Modern Tropical Flowers (undated) Oil on wood; Untitled (Palm Tree Frond) (undated); Fields and Workers (undated) Oil on card. All images courtesy Frank Walter Family, photos (c) Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts and David Zwirner
Walter’s vast oeuvre reveals an intellectual curiosity explored in a wide array of mediums and subject matters, including painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture; exploring landscapes and memory, flora and fauna, Antiguan society, scientific concepts, and more. In total, he created over 5,000 paintings, 1,000 drawings, 600 sculptures, 2,000 photographs, 468 hours of recordings, and a 50,000-page archive.
Aside from his artistic output, Frank Walter led a pioneering and unique life as an environmentalist, intellectual, and philosopher. He self-titled himself the 7th Prince of the West Indies, Lord of Follies and the Ding-a-Ding Nook, and as a direct descendant of both enslaved persons and plantation owners, he tried to find peace in returning to agriculture as a way of feeding his countrymen who had experienced economic hardship. He became the first Black man to manage a sugar plantation in Antigua, and later ran an (unsuccessful) campaign to become Prime Minister in 1969 on a visionary environmental campaign.
Frank Walter, Self-portrait with glasses on forehead (undated) photograph mounted on cardboard, courtesy Frank Walter Family and Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts
In 1993 he designed and built a home, art studio, and gardens in a remote location on Bailey’s Hill in Antigua. Walter created an environment embracing the natural world, with staggering views of the surrounding countryside and ocean.
Finding solace in the wild hills of his ancestral lands, Walter mostly secluded himself, spending the remainder of his days gardening, writing, and painting.
Guest curation by Professor Barbara Paca, Ph.D., O.B.E.
Top image: Seven Palms on a Harbour, oil on card (undated) by Frank Walter, Courtesy Frank Walter Family, photo (c) Kenneth M. Milton Fine Arts and David Zwirner
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Beautifully illustrated with Frank Walter’s paintings of tropical plants, abstract landscapes and imagined intergalactic gardens, alongside photographs of his studio and the surrounding environment in rural Antigua, the exhibition catalogue also includes an essay by exhibition curator Professor Barbara Paca, Ph.D., O.B.E., and an introduction by Garden Museum Director Christopher Woodward.
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Antiguan gardening with Frank Walter
By Professor Barbara Paca, Ph.D., O.B.E.
Barbara Paca, Curator of Frank Walter: Artist, Gardener, Radical, shares her memories of meeting Frank Walter and discovering the Antiguan plants in his garden, as well as his affinity with gardening figures throughout history such as the Tradescants and Derek Jarman.
“I had the pleasure of knowing Frank Walter well. Upon our first meeting at his hillside home in 2004 I became intrigued by the artistic way that he combined familiar edible and medicinal plants with native species to create a new landscape aesthetic in the West Indies. He freely imparted his lifelong knowledge of plants, agriculture, folklore, and natural medicines to me, teaching me important lessons about what it means to garden in the Caribbean…”