Many paintings by Henry Oliver Walker (1843 –1929) were included in the last post of the Library of Congress but Walker’s work outside of the library is just as beautiful. Walker’s paintings reflect how influential European traditional art was on the American artists active in the late 19th century. The influence of traditional culture is apparent in the illustrations and advertising in American publications at the turn of the century.
The Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building was built between 1890 and 1897. The Beaux-Arts style building is decorated with the works of more than fifty American painters and sculptors. The murals of the building seem to be influence by the atheistic of the French Symbolist painter Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) The work of Henry Oliver Walker (1843-1929) is predominant in the building. Walker was part of the Cornish Arts Colony in New Hampshire which included Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), it seems that the younger artist was influenced by Walker.
For many, it is difficult to imagine how paintings of nude women and children would be permitted in a government building. The fact that prelapsarian images are not supported by institutions today is due to the growth of fascism. Wilhelm Reich recognized that fascism was not limited to “political parties” which had formed in Germany and Italy, rather it was the organized political expression of the psychological structure of modern man’s character. Reich defined fascism as “the basic emotional attitude of the suppressed man of authoritarian machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical conception of life.” Since the suppression of life affirming character occurs during childhood, it is not too surprising that art which affirms the fullness of being is perceived as a preoccupation of pedophilia. This view is due to the liquidation of all values outside of rationality of machine civilization. The pose of the figure in Walker’s painting Endymion is a quote from Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.
Henry O. Walker ~ Boy at Winander ~ 1897
Walter McEwen ~ Bellerophon ~ 1897