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Frank Walter: Artist, Gardener, Radical

“A fascinating, kaleidoscopic exploration… Like any great artist, Walter pulls you into a world so vivid that everything else fades away.” – The Telegraph ★★★★

This autumn the Garden Museum presents a major exhibition of the landscape and nature paintings and sculptures of Antiguan artist Francis Archibald Wentworth Walter (1926–2009), known as Frank Walter.

One of the most significant Caribbean visual artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Artist, Gardener, Radical will delve into Walter’s prolific body of work exploring Antiguan plants and landscapes, environmentalism, Caribbean and Black identity, social justice and the complexity of nature.

With over 100 paintings and sculptures which have never been exhibited before, and a newly-commissioned immersive set by award-winning designer Jeremy Herbert, this exhibition will transport visitors to the warm climate of Walter’s ‘castle on a hill’ studio in coastal Antigua.


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Presented in collaboration with 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

Buy the catalogue

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…”

Photo by Thomas Barzilay Freund
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Presented in collaboration with David Zwirner.
With thanks to members of the Exhibition Circle for their support.
Supported by Cockayne Grants for the Arts, a donor advised fund held at the London Community Foundation.