Failed insurance salesman Dugald Stewart Walker (1883–1937), a native Richmonder and self-styled eccentric very much in artistic and cultural sympathy with the British aesthetes of a generation before, studied drawing at the University of Virginia and the New York School of Art, and was by the late 1920s internationally renowned as both a fine artist and popular illustrator of children’s books. While his gallery work was praised in the museums of London, Paris, and Rome, Walker’s elegant grotesqueries fared poorly back home in Depression-era Richmond—though he was keenly sought after as a bookplate designer by the Richmond and New York elite.
With striking black-and-white prints reminiscent of the work of Aubrey Beardsley but distinctly his own, Walker created a whimsical, slightly sinister, and technically precise “Once Upon a Time” world of pleasure gardens, peacocks, satyrs, clowns, archers, and mounted knights. Often in his bookplates the highly personalized iconography of client preference is brought to bear on quaint themes and high modernist design. In the plate for the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, for example, delicately rendered chemistry beakers positioned above a “window” become, in their self-mirroring symmetry, a kind of ornamental pediment. In another plate, otherwise naturalistic boxers, poised for battle, become pilaster-like ornaments on either side of a monumental baroque doorway through which lovers can be glimpsed embracing in a glade. Perhaps the strangest item in this collection isn’t a bookplate at all but the artist’s own Christmas card, whereon female triplets, uncannily prefiguring Dr. Seuss characters in their synchronized stride, come bearing wreaths and a garnished pig’s head on a platter.
[Arrangement and access:
The collection includes a one-page typed inventory of contents. Some plates are signed by the artist in pencil.
Stacy Moore and Edward Campbell, “The Art of Make-Believe: The Bookplates of Dugald Stewart Walker,” Virginia Cavalcade, Autumn 1991
Related resources and collections:
C1: 110 Bookplate File
3 thoughts on “Dugald Stewart Walker Bookplate Collection”
I am trying to find out more about Dugald Stewart Walker. I have a collection of First Day Covers dating back to the 1930s. I have 10 FDCs with cachets by Stewart from 1937. I would like any information that could point me in the right direction.
To Dennis Smith… My parents told me that my Grandfather, Harry Allen Jr., who co-owned a stamp business in Richmond around 1920-1930’s?, engaged Dugald Stewart Walker to draw pencil prints representing each branch of the US Military, to present to the US Post Office for a US military memorial stamp set contest. My recollection is that granddads’ entries, drawn by Mr. Walker, won and were used for the new military, memorial stamps. Growing up, we had two, framed, original pencil drawings by Walker, and per my parents final wishes, in 2005, they were entrusted to the care of a relative, who has the other original prints from the contest. My father entrusted me with his fathers’ stamp collection some twenty years ago. I remember him telling me that his father would go to the Post Office whenever a new stamp was being offered, and he would buy the corner of a sheet of new stamps with a serial number. I remember my father also talking about the “first day covers” in the collection I have. I hope to find time soon to start the process of identifying the items in the stamp collection. Currently, I am researching family history, including my great grandfather, Captain Harry Allen who served in the US Army as a marching drill Officer in the 1870’s and 1880’s. I just last week, visited the family burial plot in Greenwood Va. where four generations of my relatives are buried. If your Walker “first day covers” are the military stamps, I hope this information may help you with your question about your first day covers. Feel free to contact me via e-mail if I can help further. Laurence Allen
I have what may be a pen and ink or a plate from
Dream Boats 12×16 inches but have no idea as to its value . Any clues