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One Man's Life

Robert Lindsey Walker

by Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder

Robert L. Walker (b.1909, d.1996)

I am sure all of you are familiar with the movie Driving Miss Daisy. Well, Georgia's Robert Lindsey Walker - in his retirement - took up driving widowed ladies around to their various tasks. He also tended to their gardens. A self-taught artist, the inspiration for his work came from his hours as a driver and gardener and what he saw in the neighborhoods where he picked up and delivered Southern belles...

Born in Savannah Georgia in 1909, Robert Lindsey Walker never had the desire to live elsewhere. From what little we know, he had a childhood like many other boys in the early 1900s. Those were rough unforgiving days and Robert was working full time from a very early age - he grew up fast and learned what he could. During his teenage years, Robert spent some time away in the army but returned to his beloved Georgia.

With a love of gardening and a healthy respect for God's creations, Robert enjoyed working with the natural elements. It's not surprising then, that he became a stone setter, a trade he stayed with until his retirement in the late 1960s.

In retirement, Robert L. Walker was alone in the world. His marriage had ended in divorce and produced no offspring. So often when a man leaves no children, the record of who he was and what he accomplished disappears.

However, Robert had a passion... one that he kept to himself, one that no one knew about. You see, our Robert liked to draw (or as he called it "doodle") and he looked for, and collected discarded materials throughout his entire life. After his death, a multitude of boxes full of all the things he had saved were found - stacked from floor to ceiling, all neatly labeled and arranged. Found were a great variety of items like tools pens and markers, salvaged papers, letters, file folders and calendars. It was on these papers that Robert Lindsey Walker created his art. This self-taught man - after retiring as a stone setter - meticulously constructed drawings depicting the homes and lawns in the historic district of Savannah. Robert also drew people and animals inspired by advertisements clipped from the local newspaper. However, his architectural drawings never included humans.

If you are ever walking in the Historic district in Savannah Georgia, you might well recognize some of the buildings that Robert Lindsey Walker drew. His drawings have been included in prominent private collections including that of the late Herbert Hemphill, now a part of the Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The images are of "One Man's Life". A man who quietly collected, saved and recorded the stately buildings in Savannah, Georgia. He saw in those buildings what most people miss... he saw and recognized that the structures were worth recording, that the grand historic buildings of the past, are our window to understanding the future.

Robert Lindsey Walker died in 1996 but his art lives on. How many Robert L Walker's are still out there? I hope we never stop looking.

The Barbara Archer Gallery handles the estate of Robert L. Walker exclusively.

Text © Jantje Blokhuis-Mulder; Photos Reprinted with Permission

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