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 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.”
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.)