Saturday, July 21, 2007


Today is the 90th birthday of Walt Reed, the world's foremost scholar and historian of illustration art.

Walt is author of the seminal Illustrator in America, 1860-2000, the foundation of all scholarship in the field, as well as Fifty Great American Illustrators, A Century of American Illustration, monographs about artists such as Joseph Clement Coll, Harold von Schmidt, John Clymer, Mort Kunstler, etc., and Famous Artists School books on Figure Drawing and other subjects. Each book is respected for its integrity of scholarship, soundness of judgment and clarity of expression.

When I was a young boy, I saved the money from my paper route for an entire month to buy The Illustrator in America. When I finally had that treasure trove of artists and styles in my hands, I nearly wore out the pages studying it.

Since that time, I've had the pleasure of getting to know Walt personally. The sincerity and the purity of his love for the art form is an aesthetic experience all by itself. He has the respect and admiration of all who know him. Who else can say that at age 90?

He doesn't go on the internet and won't see this, but happy birthday anyway, Walt!


Dominic Bugatto said...

I had the good fortune of spending some time with Walt a coupla years ago at the Illustration House.

He was generous with his time and pleasure to chat with. His enthusiasm for Illustration was still very eveident.

He had pulled numerous pieces from their collection for me to view and enjoy.

A very important day for me as an illustrator , a real learning experience.

All the best Walt. Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

While working with my father, Gerald
who published Illustrator In America as Madison Square Press, I
got to enjoy meeting Walt Reed. He is probably the most knowledgable expert in
the world on American illustrors. I recommend the Reeds
web site
. I visit it often to check what's coming up at their New York art
auctions. Happy Birthday Walt. Great blog by the way.

Anonymous said...

Walt Reed is the best. He started this whole field. It all began with him. Thanks David for letting us know and happy birthday Walt.

Anonymous said...

Suchhhh a great blog....

I've had numerous great encounters with Walt.

My favorite though, is the time he asked me to look at a painting IH had recently acquired, that had no signature. The work was clearly from the 1920s era of American Illustration, and it had that great cornwell-influenced painterly chunkiness to it.

And since I was there already, and being not only a huge fan of that illustration era, but the biggest fan of Walter Hunt Everett Walt had ever encountered, he asked my opinion about the piece with an eye toward a possible Everett attribution.

Sadly I was sure it wasn't an Everett, for a variety of reasons, but we had a great conversation debating who it might be from. (My guess was Saul Tepper.)

I also fondly (!) remember him "showing me the good stuff" one day, literally spending an hour with me bringing out delightful picture after picture, Cornwell, Everett, Wyeth, Coll, every single piece bursting with talent, energy and verve... knowing full well I was just a dirt poor young artist who couldn't afford anything but a catalog.

Its stuff like that one never ever forgets. Love that man.

Happy Birthday Walt!

Roger Reed said...

Thanks for the tribute. I had forgotten this photo; it was probably taken in the late 1960s. Walt is in his “studio”, which saw little actual production of art during my memory but was a kind of mash-up: there was the unused run of National Geographic, drawings and paintings by Leyendecker, Townsend, Sewell, Booth and others I still can’t identfy, zillions of magazines and tearsheets, art supplies of every variety and vintage, a stamp collection, African sculpture, flat files, and an oil tank.

Walt is leaning on a ping-pong table for which there was patently not enough room, so we learned to play standing right up against the edge of the table. The studio housed a turntable that played Bach enchantingly, but had difficulty with Jimi Hendrix. The fact that Dad allowed my brother and I to drag in there a piano and drum kit, not to mention assembling electronic equipment and a cloud chamber, says a lot for his tolerance. All this in a room not more than 15 by 20 feet.

From this viewpoint you can’t see one of Walt’s paintings I always admired: a portrait of a tatooed mental patient he did from life when he was working in CO camp during WWII. I’ll try to get you a picture.

Roger Reed

Anonymous said...

Happy Belated birthday Mr. Reed.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I've gotten to know Walt slightly over the years - what a gentleman, and a gentle man. He knew I couldn't afford to buy any of his wares, but always took the time to chat with me. I wish him many more years. Andy A.

Cmannconso said...

I have a Walter Everett Hunt Painting. I was trying to find out information about him when I happened on your blog.
Do you know anything about him?

Robert Funk said...

I have had your book Illustrator in American for 40 years and I look at it as much as I can for inspiration on great under appreciated American artists. Thanks for your great vision. Robert Funk

Robert Funk said...

I have had your book Illustrator in American for 40 years and I look at it as much as I can for inspiration on great under appreciated American artists. Thanks for your great vision. Robert Funk

Linda Gramatky Smith said...

Just want to say ditto to all the nice things everyone has said about Walt Reed. He is truly the best, so knowledgeable (something he's passed along to his son Roger) and a true gentleman. Whenever I see him, my day is made richer.

Walt also helped us so much when we were first cataloguing my dad's watercolors around 1988, nine years after his death. Our daughter took the summer off to assign numbers and descriptions, my husband took photos, my mother gave as much provenance as she could remember (she was 80 at the time), and Walt went through the entire collection to give us ballpark estimates of what the paintings were worth. His help was of Inestimable value!

I saw him in April but didn't realize that on July 21, 2012 he would turn 95, still vital and as much fun as ever. Happy 95th Birthday three months late, Walt!