A celebrated American Impressionist, Martha Walter was one of the few female artists to achieve international recognition. Born in Philadelphia, Walter trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under William Merritt Chase, who encouraged her talent and remained a lasting influence on her work. In 1908, she won a traveling scholarship to visit Holland, Italy, Spain, and France, where she briefly studied at the Academie Julian and the Academie Grande Chaumiere. Chafing at their traditional approach and strictures, Walter left to establish own studio. She remained in Paris for several years, developing her plein air method in the center of French Impressionism.
Walter returned to the United States after the outbreak of World War I and settled in the artists’ community of Gloucester, Massachusetts. She quickly became known for her beach scenes of Cape Ann, Coney Island, and Atlantic City. Painted in a bold, spontaneous style, her beach scenes capture the merriment of the summer resorts. Walter countered their frivolity with painting series’ focused on immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, rural communities living in the Tennessee mountains, and North African market scenes of Tunis and Algiers.
Walter won prizes from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Association of Women Artists and exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Corcoran Gallery Biennials, the St. Louis City Art Museum, and the Woodmere Art Museum. In Paris, her work was selected for shows at the Paris Salon, the Salon d’Automne, and Galeries Georges Petit. Her paintings are now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Detroit Institute of Arts, as well as the Luxembourg Museum and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.