Artist Profile – Eddie Arning
1898–1993, lived and worked in and around Austin, Texas
Eddie Arning began creating art in 1964, at age 66. Born in 1898 in Germania, Texas, into a German-speaking Lutheran family, Arning spent the majority of his adult life in institutions and nursing homes. He lived and worked on his family’s farm until 1928, when a series of violent behaviors, culminating in an attack on his mother, led to a year of treatment at Austin State Hospital. He was released briefly only to be committed in 1934 after a relapse of symptoms diagnosed as schizophrenia. Arning began his artistic activities three decades later. Helen Mayfield, a hospital employee who practiced an early form of art therapy, encouraged him to draw, and Arning went on to produce more than 2,000 drawings in about nine years. His early work was in crayon, depicting still lives, animals, and landscapes inspired by memories of farm life. By 1966, he had incorporated human figures, and in 1969, he switched his medium to Cray-Pas, which allowed for denser and more varied color choices and textures.
Arning eventually worked exclusively from clipped magazine advertisements and photos, translating composed images of commerce into heavily stylized and highly personal arrangements of simplified, abstract shapes and bold planes of color. His mature style involved a twisting of perspective, flattening the subject. Arning interpreted the internal logic of the subject, distilling it to essential shapes and the formal relationships he wished to emphasize. He stopped working in 1973, when he was asked to leave the hospital for unspecified bad conduct. The sale of his work had paid for his hospitalization and achieved for him a certain degree of fame, but despite subsequent stays in various nursing homes, he never again created art.
Books and Exhibition Catalogs:
Eddie Arning: Selected Drawings 1964-1973. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1985.
Eddie Arning. New York: Hirschl and Adler Folk, 1988.
Eddie Arning. New York: Giampietro, 1997.
Paulsen, Barbara. “Eddie Arning: The Unsettling World of the Texas Folk Artist.” Texas Journal 28, no. 1 (September 1985): p. 35-38.
Kogan, Lee. “Eddie Arning: 1898-1997.” Folk Art 22, no. 3 (Fall 1997): p. 36.
Sachant, Pamela Jane. “Eddie Arning.” Raw Vision 28 (Fall 1999): p. 28-53.
Eddie Arning: Selected Drawings, 1964-1973. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Williamsburg, VA, 1985.
The American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
INTUIT: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, IL
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Compiled by Samantha Mitchell