William Aiken Walker
(1839 - 1921)
William Aiken Walker was a true Southerner. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1838, he was the son of a prominent cotton agent. Today Walker is primarily known for his depictions of plantations, cotton fields, African Americans, and docks. It is thought that he was somewhat inspired by European artistic subjects and styles, and that he made at least one trip to that continent. Throughout the Civil War, Walker remained in Charleston. During that time he joined the Confederate Engineer Corps, drafted sketches, and prepared maps for the Confederacy.
From 1876 to 1905, Walker regarded New Orleans as his home. There he became especially close to Everett B. D. Fabino Julio, with whom he tried to start an art league. Although their league, formed in 1880, did not succeed, it was the earliest such association in New Orleans. The project also led to what would later become the Southern Art Union.
Walker's most productive period was during the early 1880s, when he painted hundreds of pictures depicting rural African American subjects. Currier and Ives published several of his color lithographs in 1884, most notably "Cotton Plantation on the Mississippi" and "The Levee, New Orleans," and his recognition soon grew.