Inez Nathan-Walker

Drawing by Inez Nathan-Walker, Woman with Yellow Hat, ca. 1977, mixed media: pencil and colored pencil on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Inez Nathaniel-Walker, Woman with Yellow Hat, ca. 1977, mixed media: pencil and colored pencil on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 1997.124.123

(1911-1990)  Inez was orphaned at an early age, married when she was very young, and had four children. She was convicted of criminally negligent homicide after killing a man who abused her.  While in prison, she began to draw to isolate herself from the ​“bad girls” in the facility.  Her drawings are characterized by great detail. The faces are shown in strict frontal or profile view with exaggerated eyes. The figures often wear clothes that were part of Inez’s wardrobe.

Nathaniel-Walker’s work attracted the attention of Elizabeth Bayley, one of Inez’s prison teachers, who showed the drawings to a local folk art dealer who purchased many of them for exhibition.  Nathaniel-Walker’s drawings are almost exclusively portraits of the inmates whom she referred to as the "Bad Girls." The bad girls are often depicted in social situations engaging in the pleasures of drinking, smoking, and conversing. Men and children only occasionally appear in her work.

Inez Nathaniel remarried and took her new husband's name, Walker. She lived quietly and simply in a small city in New York, continued to draw and was glad to have the chance to show what she had done to visitors. She died in 1990.