Walter Everett's life seemed to revolve around his artwork.
As a gifted child, he was preoccupied with drawing and painting. He rode a bicycle 30 miles to take art lessons from Howard Pyle, the father of American illustration. By his early 20's Everett was already acclaimed for his work in some of the most prestigious illustration markets in the country. He did this beautifully composed drawing for Colliers at age 20:
Everett was an excellent artist but he focused so much on art that he often ignored his other responsibilities. He spent so much time mastering his craft, he frequently forgot to pay his rent or utility bills. He devoted countless hours to cutting and reshaping his beloved brushes, and even designed his own easel (which he imported from France) but he neglected his wife and son, who tired of his obssession and left him in 1917. In pursuit of artistic excellence, he even ignored the demands of his clients, refusing to compromise his high standards to meet their deadlines.
This masterpiece by Everett is from the Kelly collection of American Illustration. Everett worked on it so long that the client did not have time to print it in color, and had to settle for black and white.
His personal pride in his art was apparent from his bold signature in the drawing above:
and the sign he painstakingly hand lettered for his studio:
Yup, it seems that Everett was prepared to give up just about everything for art. It was his reason for living.
Then, at the peak of his career, in an act of howling madness, Everett "gathered the bulk of his life's work," burned it to ash and disappeared from illustration forever.
Nobody knows why.