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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

WALTER, Joseph

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Collection of Dubuque Museum of Art. Gift of James S. and Marcia Christensen, in memory of parents Stanley T. & Gladys M. Christensen (Roberts) and her sister Lillian Roberts, a close friend of the Walter family.
Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.
WALTER, Joseph. (Landeck, Tyrol, Austria, July 5, 1865--Dubuque, IA, Sept. 18, 1946). Walter studied art at the Vienna Academy of Applied Art and the Munich Royal Academy in the late 1800s. He devoted himself to portrait painting and became well-known in art circles of Budapest, Hungary; Munich and Vienna. He came to the United States in 1898 and settled in Dubuque where he established a studio at Sixth and Main STREETS. He painted portraits of famous residents of the city and operated an art school specializing in oil and watercolor.

Walter's artistic focus changed. There was not enough demand for portraits and he was barely able to earn enough to live. In 1905, in what must have been considered a "fall" artistically, he accepted his first commission to decorate the interior of a church, "commercial art." He became one of the most successful and best known proponents of ecclesiastical art in the mid-West over the next thirty years. Walter painted originals for and decorated 185 Catholic churches in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. He has been credited with creating more original paintings for churches in these states than any other individual.

In Dubuque, Walter decorated ST. MARY'S CATHOLIC CHURCH once, ST. PATRICK'S CATHOLIC CHURCH twice and the interior of HOLY GHOST CATHOLIC CHURCH. He moved his studio to his home at 2625 Carroll Street and worked there during the winter on landscape paintings. He often painted a small watercolor before beginning a large oil painting of the same subject and attempted to keep the two views together if they were sold. His subjects included the Diamond Jo boatyard, washday, Lake Peosta slough, trees in EAGLE POINT PARK and CATFISH CREEK.

Walter's paintings won many awards and were displayed in the Chicago Art Institute in Chicago, the Anderson Galleries in New York, and in exhibits in Denver and Philadelphia. He retired from his church decorating business ten years before his death, but continued his other work until 1945.

Those interested in learning more about Joseph Walter should contact The Friends of Joseph Walter group of Dubuque.  An information request form can be found online at http://www.dbqart.com/exhibitions.html.

Information contributed by Tom and Cinda Welu