Eddie Arning grew up in a rural Lutheran community in Germania, a small town in East Texas. In his youth he suffered from extreme bouts of depression and anxiety and later in his adulthood he was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia. Most of Arning’s adult life was spent living in one institution followed by another. In 1964 at age 66 a hospital worker introduced Arning to wax crayons and by 1969 he was working in oil pastels. Working furiously over a period of ten years, Arning produced around 2,000 to 2,500 works before he stopped in 1973 when he was asked to leave the nursing home in which he was residing for breaking the institution’s rules. He lived with his sister until 1986 when she could no longer care for him and moved into his final nursing home where he died October 15, 1993 at age 95.
Stylistically Arning’s works can be separated into two periods. The Early Period, 1964 – 1968, when his works were mostly done with graphite & wax crayons and the images reflected his childhood on a rural farm. Depicted are single form non-human subjects such as tools, windmills, flowers, and animals. Arning’s Later Period, 1968 – 1973, consisted of works made with graphite and oil pastel rendered in bolder, stronger strokes, texture and color. Arning’s later images found influence from printed advertisements in magazines and newspapers and his compositions became more graphic in their arrangement. In this period Arning also began to create more complex arrangements with multiple human figures and more involved backgrounds.