Walter Biggs, N. A. (Virginian, 1886-1968)

Distinguished by his Southern heritage, Walter Biggs is considered one of the foremost American illustrators. Born in Elliston, Virginia, he spent his childhood there and became an artist of much pride to his region. He was well known for his magazine illustrations including for Harper's, Scribner's, Good Housekeeping, and The Ladies' Home Journal, and as a painter, his style and subject matter reflected the AshCan School of Social Realism. Prodigious in his output, Biggs created numerous illustrations and other pieces for his own pleasure. He most often worked in watercolor and pursued colloquial Southern subjects. Biggs’ technical mastery and refined sense of narrative is clearly evident in many scenes, as well as his particular penchant for social realism and for conveying a feeling of the moment, clear evidence of his study with Robert Henri. In his essential reference “The Illustrator in America 1860-2000” Walt Reed describes Biggs as being "the South at its best, both as a gentleman and as an artist who painted the South with sensitive artistry and poetic nostalgia." His rendering, “The Star that Didn’t Twinkle,” is, unquestionably, one of his most beautiful and masterful paintings in which Southern poetic nostalgia is the primary theme.

Studied

Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Chase School / New York School of Art with Robert Henri, F. Luis Mora and William Merritt Chase

Member

American Water Color Society

Philadelphia Water Color Club

Allied Artists of America

Salmagundi Club

National Academy of Design

Society of Illustrators (Hall of Fame 1963)

Work

Oklahoma Art Center

Davenport (Iowa) Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The National Museum of American Illustration

Exhibited

Art Institute of Chicago, 1932, 1938, 1940, 1944, 1946 

Salmagundi Club, 1939 (prize)

National Academy of Design, 1945-1950 (prize 1950) 

New Britain Institute of Art 

Hickory Museum of Art 

Montclair Museum of Art

American Water Color Society (gold and silver medals)

Roanoke College (retrospective)

Illustrations

Harper’s

Redbook

Scribner’s

Good Housekeeping

Ladies Home Journal

McCalls

Cosmopolitan

Vogue 

(and many more national publications)

Educated

Art Students League 

Grand Central School of Art

References

Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975

Clark, History of the National Academy of Design

Reed, The Illustrator in America

Perlman, The Golden Age of American Illustration

Falk,  Annual Exhibition Record, NAD

Falk (ed.),  The Annual Exhibition Record of the AIC

Gilbert, American Illustrator Art

Opitz (ed.), Mantle Fielding's Dictionary

Watson, Forty Illustrators