Remembering Walt Reed

Walt Reed’s death last week, at 97, marks the end of one more link to Westport’s arts colony past.

Reed — a leading illustrator, art historian and author of books on illustration and illustrators, including fellow Westporter Harold von Schmidt — founded the Illustration House gallery here in 1974. One of the 1st of its kind, the company is now headquartered in New York.

Walt Reed, in his Westport studio.

Walt Reed, in his Westport studio.

“Walt was a wonderful, quiet, sweet, mild man who taught us all a lot about the early Westport illustrators,” says Eve Potts, who worked closely with him on a number of projects.

“Walt was always willing to share his knowledge, always helpful no matter how small or large the task you asked him to help with.”

James Gurney says: “Genial, good-natured and enthusiastic, he almost single-handedly pioneered illustration history as a field of research. He legitimized original illustration artwork as a category for collectors.”

One of Walt Reed's books on the history of illustration.

One of Walt Reed’s books on the history of illustration.

Reed was born in Texas. He went to art school at Pratt. During World War II he was a conscientious objector, working instead in the Dakotas for the government. After the war, he aided in European reconstruction efforts.

In the 1950s Reed was an instructor at Westport-based Famous Artists School. In 2012, the Norman Rockwell Museum honored him with its 1st-ever Distinguished Scholar Award.

The last time Potts saw Reed was at the opening of a Westport Historical Society exhibit on stamps produced by Westport artists.

He was part of that group. In 1976, he’d created a series of 50 stamps depicting state flags, to honor the American bicentennial.

(For an in-depth story on Walt Reed’s influence on the art world, click here.)

4 responses to “Remembering Walt Reed

  1. I had the privilege of knowing Walt for the past 15 years . He was all that you have stated and more. I recall spending many hours at his West 25th Street gallery and learning so much. Usually at about 4:30 he would announce that it was time for him to go to Grand Central to catch the train home. I volunteered to share a cab. However, a cab was not in Walt’s plan as he loved to walk, and nearly 20 blocks was nothing for him even in his 90s. I am so glad that the Historical Society honored him with an exhibit called “A Westport Original: Walt Reed’s ‘Illustration in America'”, in late 2013. I brought Walt and his son Roger to see the exhibit, which pleased Walt considerably. His inscription on my copy of his book, “For Ed Gerber, George Wright’s ‘s fan and my friend”, touched me greatly.
    Edward F.Gerber
    President, Westport Historical Society

  2. I was the photographer at Publishers’ Graphics in 1975 and instructed by one of the partners, Miller Pope, to attend the first meeting of an organization of Westport illustrators. All the great ones attended at someone’s home just east of the Saugatuck River. I was only age 24 with no idea how unique this was. I’ve looked for the negatives and believe they were all requested by my employer. That’s what happens when you’re young and dumb… history gone.

  3. Raymond Doyle

    My dad worked at Famous Artists Schools many years ago. His name was J. Raymond Doyle. I was a instructor for Famous Photographers school. Wonderful people, so much talent. Worked for and with Ezra Stoller in the late 1960’s, a master photographer…

  4. Todd Petersson

    Walt Reed was a terrific guy — a real gentleman, and immensely knowledgeable about a subject we both loved, American illustration. Walt, we’ll miss you.