Robert Jerome Walden

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Robert Jerome Walden
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Born(1941-07-07)July 7, 1941
Langdale, Alabama
Died(2019-09-04)September 4, 2019
Alma materAuburn University
  • Artist
  • Professor

Robert Jerome (Jerry) Walden, Sr. (July 7, 1941- September 4, 2019) was an artist and professor of art from the rural American south.


Born in Langdale, Alabama, Walden’s grew up in small towns of East Central Alabama except for two years in Montgomery [1] the state capitol. He graduated from Valley High School in Valley, AL in 1959, having taken only one six week middle school art class.[2] In August of that year he enlisted in the US Air Force (1959-63). He began his service stationed at Eufaula Air Force Station in Eufaula, AL and completed his tour of duty at Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach, FL in 1963. Honorably discharged, Walden returned home to Valley, AL. He attended Auburn University (Auburn, AL) studying business and graphic design in 1964. While at Auburn he participated in an internship program at West Point Pepperell (WPP) in the Towel Design Department at Fairfax Mill in Fairfax, AL. A challenge to make an Abstract Expressionist work by a colleague in the Towel Design Dept. resulted in an epiphany that caused Jerry to change his major to fine art.[3] Within a year his first large easel-sized painting was accepted in a regional competitive exhibition co-sponsored by the Birmingham Museum of Art. At Auburn he studied under Hugh O. Williams and by the time Jerry earned his Bachelor of Fine Art in December 1968 the internship at WPP turned into full-time employment. In the fall of 1969 Walden began working towards his Master of Fine Art in painting at the University of Georgia (Athens, GA). In 1971 he earned his MFA having studied under Lamar Dodd and Mike Nicholson. In the fall of that year Walden began his first of three teaching positions at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS. In 1980 Walden accepted his second teaching position at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and in 1987 he became chairman of the art department. Walden retired as professor emeritus from USM in spring of 1995 and later that year assumed the chairmanship of the art department[4] at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, his third and final academic position. In 2005 Walden retired professor emeritus from Winthrop and dedicated himself to full-time art making. In the final years of his life Walden was very prolific and his work was exhibited in numerous exhibitions and art fairs in the United States and Switzerland.

Style and Subject Matter

The human figure and Christian iconography made repeated and sustained appearances in his work over the years reflecting his love of Italian Renaissance and Northern European painting[5]. His work waxed and waned between Abstract Expressionism to Surrealism to Minimalism. No matter the style or visual imagery of Walden’s work his overarching subjects were formal ideas exploring composition and color theory. From 2006 onward he concentrated on geometric abstraction paying particular attention to color and its relationships.

Both his artwork and design won numerous awards including 1st prize in the professional division at the Eufaula Festival[6], the Award of Merit for the best single entry at the Mississippi Artists Competitive Exhibition[7], a merit award in the Mississippi Museum of Art Sculpture Competition[8] and Best In Show at the 3rd Annual Mississippi Artists Juried Exhibition[9]. Walden was noted for his "precise and marvelous" compositions[10], "strong sense of composition"[11] and his use of color[12]. In the early part of his career Walden was also a noted graphic designer; creating a corporate character for the First National Bank of Greenville, MS and winning a design competition for a medallion celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Delta State University[13].

A parallel interest was self-portraiture[14][15]. Like one of his heroes Rembrandt Walden made numerous self-portraits throughout his life in diverse media; drawing, printmaking, painting, assemblage, photomontage and collage. These works range from “comical characters”, “colorful paintings” to sketches “fully realized”[16] to the psychedelic. His self-portraits, "run the gamut — from traditional to untraditional"[17].


Walden’s students won awards[18] [19] and his influence on them and their work was noted multiple times throughout his career[20] [21]. His university colleagues described his artwork as “exceptional” and made reference to the influence of his teaching and administrative abilities as, “very efficient” and “inspiring"[22].


  1. [1] Studio Visit Interview with the artist with Robert Henry Contemporary, New York, NY
  2. [2] Studio Visit Interview with the artist with Robert Henry Contemporary, New York, NY
  3. [3] Studio Visit Interview with the artist with Robert Henry Contemporary, New York, NY
  4. [4] Dogan, Reginald T., The Herald, Rock Hill, SC, July 19, 1995, Southern Miss’ Walden Coming to Winthrop, pg.7A
  5. [5] Studio Visit Interview with the artist with Robert Henry Contemporary, New York, NY
  6. [6] Padgett, Wanda, The Columbus Enquirer, Columbus, GA, August 26, 1968, "2000 Spectators See 4th Eufaula Festival", pg. 14
  7. [7] McDavid, O.C., The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, October 24, 1971, "Award of Merit", pg. 15E (Image)
  8. [8] McDavid, O.C., The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS, August 6, 1978, "MMA Sculpture Competition Winner", Sec. G pg. 10
  9. [9] Staff Writer, Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, MS, March 30, 1981, "Jerry Walden Takes Top Honors In USM Art Show", pg. 7, (Image)
  10. [10] Fleming, Ann, The Clarksdale Press Register, Clarksdale, MS, February 5, 1974, "Delta State Art Faculty Show Will Inspire Local Artists", pg. 3
  11. [11] Jordan, George E., The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA, June 8, 1975, “Perry Steals The Limelight”, Sec. 3, pg. 6
  12. [12] Gomez, Enrico, The Wag Mag, Brooklyn, NY, January 2012, "January In Brooklyn"
  13. [13] Staff Writer, The Greenwood Commonwealth, Greenwood, MS, November 29, 1974, "DSU Medal Design Chosen", pg. 10 (Image)
  14. [14] Hoyt, Lauren, The Herald, November 8, 2002, "Look Closely At The Portrait, Find The Artist At Its Center", pg. 1D
  15. [15] Hoyt, Lauren, The Herald, November 8, 2002, "Look Closely At The Portrait, Find The Artist At Its Center", pg. 7D
  16. [16] Mayes, Alicia, The Gaston Gazette, Gaston, NC, October 5, 2003, "Art Is Life Is Life Is Art", pg. 8E
  17. [17] Edwards, Deidre, WIS-TV, Columbia, SC, November 13, 2002, "Winthrop University's Art Gallery Displays Work Of Campus Professor"
  18. [18] Staff Writer, The Clarke County Tribune, Quitman, MS, April 28, 1978, "Win Design Awards", pg. 10 (Image)
  19. [19] Staff Writer, The Conservative, Carrollton, MS, April 10, 1980, "Nancye Black Submits Winning Logo", pg. 11
  20. [20] Townes, Linda, The Enterprise-Journal, McComb, MS, March 2, 1986, "Bill Lauderdale: He's Respected As Craftsman", pg. 1B
  21. [21] Staff Writer, Delta State Magazine, Spring 2012, "Common Threads", pg. 15
  22. [22] Harris, Amanda, The Herald, Rock Hill, SC, September 7, 2019, "A ‘Sad Loss’: Former Winthrop Department Chair, ‘Exceptional’ Artist Dies After Fall", pg. 3A

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