Francis Archibald Wentworth Walter, self-styled 7th Prince of the West Indies, Lord of Folliesand theDing-a-Ding Nook, was born in Antigua in 1926. He was prodigiously talented as both a writer and artist, but his undeniable genius was flawed by delusions of aristocratic grandeur, namely a belief that the white slave owners in his ancestry linked him to the noble houses of Europe, from Charles II to Franz Joseph of Austria and the Dukes of Buccleuch. As a young man, aged just 22 in 1948, Walter tasted success as the first man of colour to manage an Antiguan sugar plantation, but although widely revered on the island for his intellect and achievements he left it all behind to tour Europe in pursuit of new skills and his own increasingly convoluted genealogical meanderings. A visit to Scotland in the 1950s marked the beginnings of a life-long affection for a country to which he repeatedly returned in his imagination and in his paintings.
Walter’s remarkable gifts were the product of a fertile, but fragile, mind and having returned to the Caribbean in the 1960s he spent time farming a small holding of land in Dominica and running a make-shift photo-studio in the Antiguan capital St John’s. The last fifteen years of his life were lived in an isolated self-built house on an Antiguan hillside, surrounded by his writings, some 25,000 closely-typed pages of history, philosophy and autobiography, and by the extraordinary paintings and carvings that speak with such an unmistakable and visionary voice. These paintings range in subject from miniature landscapes, many of them Scottish; to abstract explorations of nuclear energy; to portraits, both real and imagined, including seminal images of Hitler playing cricket (what else would the Führer do on a visit to Antigua? of course, he’d play cricket like everyone else) and Charles and Diana as Adam and Eve, freshly arrived in an island paradise. Painted with a rare immediacy, on whatever material came to hand, they announce the discovery of one of the most intriguing and distinctive Caribbean artists of the last 50 years.
Walter's work was first exhibited alongside paintings by Alfred Wallis and Forrest Bess in the exhibition Songs of Innocence and Experience at Ingleby Gallery in Spring 2013. A solo exhibition of his work was presented by The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin in Summer 2013 and later that year, Ingleby Gallery presented a solo display of Walter's paintings and his hillside home at Art Basel Miami Beach. A major solo exhibition followed at Ingleby Gallery in spring 2015. In 2017, Frank Walter represented Antigua and Barbuda at the Venice Bienniale, in a show called Frank Walter: The Last Universal Man 1926–2009. A solo presentation of Walter's work also took place at Harewood House, Leeds, UK in the summer of 2017. A major retrospective of the artist's work was displayed at MMK Museum of Modern Art Frankfurt in 2020.
Ingleby Gallery is currently exhibiting of some of the artist’s most singular and visionary 'spool' paintings and sculptures for the Edinburgh Art Festival, until 25 September, 2021.