|Walt Reed, painted by James Gurney in 2009|
An artist himself, Walt studied at Pratt Institute and worked for a time as a freelance illustrator. Walt served on the faculty of the correspondence course called the Famous Artists School, working closely with mid-20th century masters such as Norman Rockwell, Robert Fawcett, and Al Dorne.
Genial, good natured, and enthusiastic, he almost singlehandedly pioneered illustration history as a field of research, and he legitimized original illustration artwork as a category for collectors.
He cultivated relationships with working professionals, and he helped to revive the reputations of nearly forgotten illustrators such as J.C. Coll. He wrote the classic survey of illustration history The Illustrator in America, 1900-1960's.
In 1974 he founded the Illustration House, one of the first galleries in America to specialize in original illustration art. If you were lucky enough to visit Illustration House, he would let you hold an original J. C. Leyendecker or Tom Lovell in your hands.
Walt Reed advised the New Britain Museum in Connecticut as they built the Sanford Low collection, one of the finest museum collections of illustration art. He wrote two later editions of his illustration history book, including Illustrator in America, 1860-2000, which still stands as the best illustrated survey of the history of the field.
He also wrote The Figure: The Classic Approach to Drawing and Construction, Harold von Schmidt Draws and Paints the Old West, The Magic Pen of Joseph Clement Coll, and Harvey Dunn: Illustrator and Painter of the Pioneer West.
Dan Zimmer has posted a biography that was recently published in Illustration Magazine, based on interviews by David Saunders.