Portraits of Robinson

`TO the Cat,'' wrote Walter Inglis Anderson, ``Thou who carriest the sun for a head, a serpent for a tail, and for feet, four flowers which follow thee wherever thou dost go.'' He had a great love for animals and named his own big marmalade cat Robinson. Robinson was deeply devoted to his master, who returned the affection by celebrating Robinson's career in a series of more than 30 woodcuts now published in hard cover as ``The Pleasant History of an Unusual Cat.''

This wildly imaginative story traces Robinson's history from modest house-cat to a famous pianist and then to world-renowned orchestra conductor.

Anderson designed and executed hundreds of block prints illustrating fairy tales, myths, and legends. But his deepest devotion was to the natural world with the lush vegetation of the Gulf coast, its marine creatures, and wild animals.

Poetic in the truest sense, he wrote, ``Some walk on the earth, some on water, others on the clouds.''

Out of admiration for D"urer and Ingres he developed his unique mastery of line and design. Expressed in painting, drawing, and sculpture, this genius extended even to his writing.

He wrote, ``In the Dark and Middle Ages man made and still makes an image, and from that image erects a world. Every form in nature, cat, dog, pig, rat, have all had worlds made for them. Despise them as you, as man will, each one has owned his world. So that for the turtle crawling low upon the earth and bearing the burden of his shell, the flowers were made, stars brought close and hung just above his head to fill the space between the blades of grass.''

His love of nature appears in his cottage in Ocean Springs, Miss. In 1937 he added a room to it in which he covered walls and ceiling with his painting. A great zinnia fills the ceiling. Constellations, birds, butterflies, flowers, animals, and rich foliage occupy every wall, while beneath one window stalks a friendly cat.

Across open water, 12 miles from the cottage, lies Horn Island, one of a series in the barrier reef curving along the Mississippi coast. Anderson owned a small skiff that he rowed daily over to the island. He carried with him his art supplies and a few groceries.

Without shelter, he turned the boat over to sleep under it. Wading in the marshes and climbing the trees, he found his subjects in their own world. He painted the shore birds, ospreys, ducks, rabbits, raccoons, wild hogs, alligators, frogs, snakes, and butterflies. The works from that period are alive with affection and joy.

How he loved the island! In January 1965 he wrote that ``Horn Island'' was ``only accessible to celestial beings -- God made an exception in my case.''

Of poetry he said, ``There are three kinds. The first poetry is written against the wind by sailors and farmers who sing with the wind in their teeth. The second poetry is written by scholars and students ... who have learned to know a good thing. The third poetry is sometimes never written but when it is, it's by those who have brought nature and art together in one thing.'' This third poetry is his.

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