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Frank Walter Artist, Gardener, Radical

4 October 2023—25 February 2024
Garden Museum, London, UK

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This exhibition will present the landscape and nature paintings and sculptures of 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 environmentalism, Caribbean and Black identity, social justice and the complexity of nature.

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

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. 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.

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.