Carl Walters: Renaissance Man

Born and raised in Iowa, Carl Walters’ early career included stints as a tinsmith and brass patternmaker. He did not receive any formal artistic training until his early 20s when he enrolled in figure-drawing classes at the Minneapolis Art Institute in 1905, followed by the William Merritt Chase School in 1908. Walters eventually developed an interest in ceramics after seeing ancient faience beads at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the course of several years, from 1919 to 1921, he taught himself how to craft and glaze his own works in clay. He held his first show as a ceramist at the Whitney Studio Club in 1924.

Carl Walters working at his glass furnace
Carl Walters, Whitney Museum of American Art entrance doors, c. 1930

Walters approached all aspects of artmaking with an open mind and great curiosity and, in addition to ceramics, he applied his considerable talent and ingenuity to learning glassmaking. He built himself a glass furnace and after just over a year of experimentation he was commissioned to design and craft entrance doors for the Whitney Studio Club when it became the Whitney Museum of American Art on West 8th Street in New York. Each of the two doors featured thirty molded glass panels with relief decoration of animals and circus scenes. Walters made the present lot just one year later after his iconic Whitney doors and, beyond being a triumph of self-education, they also exhibit his considerable talents in drawing as well as the influence of his early experiences as a tinsmith and patternmaker.

This isn't work, it's play.

Carl Walters

Musical Ear, Artistic Eye

Works from the Collection of Seymour Stein

Seymour Stein is co-founder and Chairman of Sire Records, one of the world’s most influential record labels and home to some of the most iconic artists in modern music. He has been Sire’s driving visionary and creative force since its origins in the 1960s as an independent label and its four-decade tenure as part of Warner Music Group. His unique ability to anticipate musical trends, and to discover and sign the greatest artists within those movements, has left an indelible mark on contemporary culture. 

It was in 1955, when he was just 13 years old, that Stein was granted access to the Billboard archives, where he painstakingly transcribed two decades of charts, developing his encyclopedic memory of songs. After high school, he joined the Billboard staff, then worked for King Records and Red Bird Records. He and producer Richard Gottehrer launched Sire Records in 1967. 

Stein and Madonna at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, 1996

Stein first saw the Ramones in 1975 and, as he said, “It was like sticking my hand in a live electric light socket.” The band’s first album was released by Sire in 1976. It remains one of the seminal recordings in rock and roll history. Stein put New Wave music – a term he coined – on the mainstream map with the likes of Talking Heads and the Pretenders. And in a moment that has become a permanent part of music industry lore, Stein signed a young artist named Madonna while he was in the hospital recuperating from a heart infection. Over the years, Sire’s roster has included other cutting-edge artists such as Tom Tom Club, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, k.d. lang, Seal, Everything But The Girl, Aztec Camera, Dinosaur Jr., Wilco, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Aphex Twin, Spacehog, Regina Spektor, Tegan & Sara, and many more. Stein was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

In addition to his myriad musical pursuits, Stein developed an impeccable eye for fine and decorative art. His particular love for Art Deco and Art Nouveau design began during his many trips to London and Paris while on the hunt for new bands to sign. With the guidance of his long-time curator and adviser Rodney Richardson, Stein procured only the best examples of ceramics, paintings, drawings, and furniture he could find. We are thrilled to present works from his extraordinary collection and are grateful to him and Rodney for their help, warmth, and good humor.