Martha Walter 1875-1976

Gloucester 1907

  • 6 3/4 x 9 1/8 inches (17.1 x 23.1 cm)
  • Oil on board
  • Dated and inscribed “1907 Gloucester, Mass.” and with the artist’s estate stamp on verso
  • 1907

Why We Love It

Many associate Martha Walter with her lovely and colorful beach scenes, but these two early works have a Whistler inspired purity of form and color that proves her abilities as an artist. Not relying on crowd-pleasing scenes of children at play or women at leisure, she takes a simple view at a particular time of day and makes it magical.

The Value

Martha Walter lived and painted for many years (she lived over one hundred years!), and there is a wide variety in her artistic output. These early works date to a time when the impressionist aesthetic was still a thriving part of the art world. Paintings from this period, in our opinion, represent her best work.

Artist Background

1875: Born in Philadelphia; Studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where William Merritt Chase was a strong influence; 1908: Won the Cresson Traveling Scholarship, which allowed her to study in Europe; 1930s: Exhibited frequently at Milch Galleries. Began travel to North Africa, where she painted in Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers; Continued to paint well into her old age; 1976: Died.

A fine example of the harbor scenes for which Martha Walter earned acclaim, Gloucester 1907 displays not only Walter’s adept handling of the oil medium but also her interest in novel compositions.  She uses a strong horizon line, punctuated with the vertical masts of boats, to anchor the painting and then creates a swirl of drama in her rendering of the sky. Her broad brushstrokes fill the work with energy, yet the muted palette perfectly captures the serenity of the scene.

Martha Walter, a well-known Philadelphia impressionist, was most acclaimed for her depictions of Gloucester, Massachusetts; Coney Island; Atlantic City; and the coast of France.  She studied with William Merritt Chase at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and received the Cresson Scholarship, which allowed her to travel for two years, visiting France, Spain, Italy, and Holland.  While in Paris she attended the Academie Grande Chaumiere and the Academie Julian.  However, she found the academy structure too confining and instead set-up her own studio in the Rue de Bagneaus.

With the advent of World War I she returned to the United States and established a studio in Gloucester, where she painted beach scenes.  She also became intrigued with Ellis Island and painted people as they arrived in ethnic costume from their countries of origin.

Walter exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Association for Women Painters.  Her work is represented in the collections of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Norfolk Society of Artists, the Milwaukee Art Institute, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Luxembourg Museum, Paris.