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Stephen Warde Anderson - Biography
Anderson Stephen Warde

Stephen Warde Anderson
us United States

Stephen Warde Anderson is a self-taught Midwestern outsider artist whose acrylic paintings depict whimsical worlds inhabited by fairies, mermaids, aliens, fabulous creatures, and glamorous ladies, often in distress. Executed in a style best described as naive classicism, his work is characterized by bright colors, strong line, stylized, formal composition, and with its mix of fairytale-like fantasy, fey humor, and social comment presents an ingenuous romanticism free of parody or irony.
Born (1953) and resident in Rockford, Illinois, Anderson has been working full-time and exhibiting nationally for over twenty years. He has had numerous one-man shows and is represented by major dealers in Chicago, Milwaukee and in the Washington, D.C. area. His paintings have also been featured as cover art for Chronicles magazine.
His work is included in the Roger Brown Study Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as in the collections of the Smithsonian Art Gallery and the Museum of Folk Art in New York. He is one of the few living painters to be profiled in the Encyclopedia of American Folk Art (Gerard C. Wertkin, New York, 2004) and will be the subject of an upcoming documentary by Milwaukee film maker Kate Balsley.


Abridged Resume


Stephen Warde Anderson
3636 Grant Avenue
Rockford IL 61103
Tel.: 815-688-6701

"Fables and Fairy Tales" Clark Arts Center, Rockford University, Rockford IL, September, 2014

“Nature Redux” Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, July, 2012

“Gambling For Souls” Antieau Gallery, New Orleans, September, 2011

"Mystical Worlds" Packer-Schopf Gallery, Chicago, February, 2010

"Fairy Tales," Packer-Schopf Gallery, Chicago, July, 2008

"Fantasy Tableaux," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, January, 2007.

"Variations on the Conventional," Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago, January, 2006.

"Aquatic Fantasies and Maritime Adventures," Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago, September, 2004.

"Haunted Heroines," Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago, September, 2002.

"Symbolism and Symmetry, Costume and Couture," Lyonsweir-Packer Gallery, Chicago, December, 2000.

"Pictorial Fantastry," Freeport Art Center, Illinois, July 2000.

"Out of the Cosmos," Webb Gallery, Waxahachie, Texas, October, 1999.

"Maidens, Myths, and Monsters," Aron Packer, Chicago, October, 1998, and May, 1999.

Michael Lord Gallery, Milwaukee, October, 1995.

Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, March, 1995.

"Screen Goddesses" Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, January, 1995.

Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, May, 1992.

"Pastels and Paintings" Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, August, 1990.

"Collective Soul: Outsider Art from Chicago Collections" Intuit, Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, September 2014

"25th Anniversary Show" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, April, 2013

"The Beast Within" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, July, 2013

"The Architecture of Hope - the Treasures of Intuit" Intuit, Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, January, 2011.

"Specimens" Fawick Gallery, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, January, 2011.

“Forget me NOT” Intuit, Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago, IL, Sept., 2010.

"When Animals Talk" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, October, 2009.

"Visages: Face Revisited" Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL, Jan., 2009.

"Tura! Tura! Tura! " Group benefit show honoring Tura Satana at The Tattoo Factory Gallery, Chicago, IL, Oct., 2008.

"Stars of the Silver Screen, Hollywood Portraits by Stephen Warde Anderson" South Shore Arts Gallery, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, Oct., 2008.

"Rockford Midwestern" Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL, July, 2008.

"20th Anniversary Celebration Exhibit" Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, WI, April, 2008.

"Outside - In" GAGA Arts Center, Garnerville, New York, June, 2007.

"Myths, Dreams, and Other Revelations" Noyes Arts Center, Evanston, Illinois, May, 2007.

"Black and White" Fawick Gallery, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, September, 2006.

"Tooth and Claw," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, July, 2006.

"Diabolique: Images of the Devil in Contemporary Art," Walkers Point Center for the Arts, Wisconsin, July, 2005.

"Strange Presences," Tory Folliard Gallery, Milwaukee, October, 2004.

"Ghostly Creations, Dark Inspirations," Rockford College Art Gallery, Illinois, October, 2001.

"Idols and Icons," Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, April, 2000.

"Within Reach: Northern Illinois Outsider Artists," Rockford Art Museum, Illinois, May, 1998.

"Visions, Dreams, and Prophecies:Ten Intuitive Chicago Artists," Community Gallery of Art, College of Lake County, Illinois, February, 1998
"Outsider Art, an Exploration of Chicago Collections," Chicago Cultural Center, December, 1996.

"Subjective Intentions," Rockford Art Museum, Illinois, September, 1993.

"Visions: Expressions Beyond the Mainstream from Chicago Collections," Arts Club of Chicago, September, 1990.

"H.P.A.C. or Bust," Hyde Park Art Center, Illinois, January, 1989.


Smithsonian Art Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Museum of American Folk Art, New York

Art Institute, Roger Brown Study Collection, Chicago

Milwaukee Art Museum

College of Lake County, Illinois

Rockford Art Museum, Illinois

Freeport Art Center, Illinois

100 Artists from the Midwest, E. Ashley Rooney, Schiffer Books, 2012

Encyclopedia of American Folk Art, Gerard C. Wertkin, Editor, New York, 2004.

Self-taught, Outsider, and Folk Art: A Guide to American Artists, Locations, and Resources, Betty-Carol Sellen and Cynthia J. Johanson, McFarland and Co., 2000.

Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists, Chuck and Jan Rosenak, New York, 1990.


Entirely self-taught.

Naive Classicism

Naive Classicism

I have always avoided classifying my artwork in regard to style and have eschewed defining it by any of the many “-isms” that inhabit and inhibit art appreciation and criticism. Labels tend to be limiting and distorting and, once acquired, often will stifle creative growth in any direction at variance with the label. The visual artist, like the actor, should, I think, reject being type cast. Nevertheless, I recognize there is a certain convenience for the artist in being able to facilely classify and, therefore, explain his work, and there is greater advantage for others in being able to place the artist and his work into a comforting and easily apprehended pigeonhole. Indeed, it is inevitable that an artist will be marked with the brand of some “-ism.” It is best, therefore, that it be one of his own choosing and defining.
My own artwork, acrylic paintings, primarily whimsical fantasy tableaux and historical portraits, manifest most of the elements of what I would call Naive Classicism, which I will attempt to clarify. Classicism in art, with its emphasis on harmonious composition and formal balance, emotional restraint and understatement, traditional techniques and modalities, conventional, idealized, stylized forms and subject matter, a conservative world view, and an Apollonian sense of discipline would seem in conflict with the attributes associated with the naif -- unschooled, free-spirited, and unaware or dismissive of artistic conventions and traditions. Yet, a synthesis is achieved when an artist’s aspiration to classical values is imperfectly realized owing to incongruous skill and technique, the employment of an idiosyncratic style, the pursuit of non-traditional subject matter, or the influences of personal tastes, viewpoints, and sensibilities. The result will exhibit elements of classical art, yet have the feel of outsider or folk art. Naive Classicism thus comprises a recognizable type of artwork, but not a specific technique or style like Impressionism, nor a predictable variation on Classicism such as Art Deco.
My own take on Naive Classicism presents the following characteristics:
1. Bright, clean, strong colors, accentuated by the use of multi-layered acrylic on museum board (which absorbs the paint rather canvas or other gessoed surfaces on which the paint merely stands.)
2. Elimination of light and shadow as compositional elements. Shading is uniformly applied, e.g. the outer edges will be darkened, the middle of the object, highlighted slightly. The darkening of the natural color of an object due to lack of light is pretty much ignored. Deep chiaroscuro is rarely used.
3. Stylized poses for figures, avoiding distorting positions and limiting foreshortening, which I find difficult to render well.
4. Flexible perspective and proportion. I don’t set out to alter either, but I rely on the maxim “if it looks right, it is right,” and sometimes that is at variance with photographic reality. Sometimes the relative size of foreground or background elements may be determined less by their actual size than by their importance to the picture. A consistent viewing perspective is not always religiously adhered to, if, departing from it, some element is more advantageously presented.
5. Simplification. Since the eye is drawn to areas of high detail, unimportant areas of the composition demand a sketchier rendering than important areas, which must display finer detail, as well as stronger color and perhaps greater texture. I believe that beauty is “the expurgation of the superfluous,” and what is unnecessary for the message of the composition and its convincing execution should be deemphasized or deleted. Another consideration is that a painting should be seen at maximum effect from a distance of, say, six to ten feet and, therefore, line and detail must “carry,” (the reason I use a needle to outline objects in black paint).


"...a body of work of considerable strangeness ... The paintings are intensely romantic in an adolescent way ... full of a kind of yearning idealism ... the works have an emotional sincerity that can't be faked." Margaret Hawkins, Chicago Sun-Times, June 19, 1992.

"Anderson quickly reveals an almost limitless mental capacity for art appreciation ; ... His inner drive is to create art, to learn about it, and to pursue it to the point of obsession. ... Anderson's art is an exemplary testament to the pure nature of the best of self-taught artists." Annabelle Helber Massey, Dallas Observer, October 21, 1999.

"Anderson's portraits are precise and intense, with a mysterious remoteness. ... The women are invariably voluptuous and romantic, yet prim and detached, as though they are looking into another world. ... Anderson creates his own genre of the Hollywood actress as temptress and icon, which he presents with a skill unusual for a self-taught artist. John Hood, Encyclopedia of American Folk Art, New York, 2004.

"Anderson's work has a following because he appears to do effortless what a lot of educated artists try to do and fail: he makes fanciful, fantasy-centered art full of belief and devoid of irony. ... What's interesting about Anderson's work, for all its garishness and primitivism, is the earnestness with which it is painted. There's no returning to this kind of self-absorbed naivete for trained artists, but in an art world full of faux innocents, it is useful to see the real thing." Margaret Hawkins, Chicago Sun-Times, September 24, 2004.

"... a self-taught portraitist, intent on capturing women in all of their allegorical beauty ... has a firm grip on narrative works replete with ladies and critters sprung from his splendid imagination." Judith Ann Moriarty, , January 31, 2007.

"...the Anderson paintings are heavily contextualized by the artist's biography; a self-taught, ex-Navy quartermaster, Anderson picked up art-making late in life. The mid-sized acrylic and prismacolor on board are housed in heavily ornamented frames, and depict a range of fantasy creatures in typical scenes. These scenes sometimes reference aspects of contemporary life, such as mermaids using various Apple brand gadgets. Stylistically, the paintings are mimicking a medieval-y illustrative mode of forward facing or profiled figures in "pre" perspective space. The work is banking on Anderson's outsider status, however, unlike the value of interesting outsider art, which offers the art world a glimpse of something else -- these paintings are giving us a cliche." Robin Dluzen March 5. 2010.