Inez Nathaniel Walker was born into poverty as Inez Stedman in Sumter, South Carolina in 1911 and she was orphaned at an early age, married when only 16 years old and quickly had four children. During the Great Migration of the 1930s she moved to Philadelphia to get away from grueling farm work.
Keen saw his artwork and how his condition lent itself to the creation of unmatched beauty on paper. Numbers, dates, days, months, shapes and color come together in perfectly structured, elaborate patterns.
Walker’s drawings are almost exclusively single or paired portraits of females. In most of her works, the heads are drawn much larger and more expressively than the rest of the figures and dominate the composition. The hair is elaborately detailed and the drawings include lots of patterning. The eye lashes are an Inez Walker specialty as are her forward-facing eyes in profile drawings. Though Walker never felt she was able to capture a likeness, and she relied on her imagination to develop the faces, she created clearly recognizable characters. Some recur frequently. Elements of self-portraiture are also evident in her figures, many of whom wear clothing, especially hats, based on the artist’s own.1