Victor Anderson was born in Alameda county in 1912, of Swedish immigrant parents. I managed to find the earliest proof of his existence in the form of a census record book he signed in 1930, when he worked as an apprentice to an engraver. I have included a scan of this record. It can be viewed by clicking here.
To the best of my knowledge (and it is certainly not much), he had one younger brother named Teddy who joined the navy and was never heard from again. I know virtually nothing about the rest of his family. Sometime in the early 30's, he met and married Muriel Drake, my grandmother. He and Muriel spent most of the Depression living in a log cabin in Mendocino that belonged to a family friend, survived by fishing, tending a vegetable garden, and minding the friend's dairy herd. Most of this work you will see if from that decade, although not all.
He started working at California Art and Engraving in Berkeley, CA, in either 1940 or early 1941, right before the War. During the War he did drafting and engraving work for the Navy, working on plans for the ships they built at Oakland. For this reason, he wasn't drafted. He left (got downsized) in 1972, at age 60. After, he spent a year or so trying to find a job with one of the other companies, then began his own small business called "Vic Art" about 1973 or early 1974. He passed away two years later.
During the WW2, the bought their own house in Mendocino called "Vinegar Hill". Many of his pieces are centered around the cabin there. To the best of my knowledge they kept this cabin until the 70's, but my memory of life with my grandparents centers around their homes in Berkeley and Albany. I would like to add that my absolute favorite part of this site are the Christmas Cards, which give me a view of my family's life that is incomparable, and I will cherish forever.
I have included three newspaper clippings documenting exhibits of Victor Anderson's work. I even recall one final exhibit that I went to as a child somewhere in Berkeley, documenting his life and times. The following text is pulled from Moira Anderson's original text concerning the works of Victor Anderson. This and more is displayed on this site.
Introduction to the collection "The Works of Victor R. Anderson.
By Moira Anderson Allen.
What are the "works" of VRA? This is a small portion of the a huge collection of black and white drawings, some in pencil, some in pen and ink, some painted, some with shading and some without. The collection has been gathered from every accumulation of Father's work that I could find: drawers, files, and most importantly, rotting boxes in the garage. It was the sight of the majority of what you see here, mildewing and crumpled in such a box, tha prompted me to undertake this task.
I consider this the "best" because of what was left out. their remains a tremendous collection of preliminary sketches, art-class sketches, fragments, pieces that are too faint or too damaged to copy well. The entire collection from which I worked fills a large footlocker-type trunk, which I'm hoping will serve as a safe and waterproof home for it. Compiled here are the most clear, most complete, most reporducible or most expressive peices I could find, with the last criteria being the most important.
Alot of these picture were works I'd never seen before, and sorting through them has been a source of constant wonder and suprise. The wonder stems primarily fromt he overwhelming range of subjects and ideas being expressed, and the variety of styles in which they are executed. This collection spans, whith a few exxceptions, a period of only ten years, and the variety of styles withing that time or within a single year is incredible. One for exapmple, credit the "classical style" of Caesar's deathto the same person who drew the "Roland" cartoons? The "Roland" cartoons don't even resemble later pen and ink cartoons signed "Vic" or "VRA", and certainly not hte less inspired (artistically and in subject) efforts of the late 1960's, which I have omitted.
The surprise comes form the subject matter. Having grown up with scenes of Mendocino, or travel pictures or family portraits, I never expected to see works such as the portrait of Christ in the drawing section, or the detailed "people studies" in the portraits section. This seems to be the only period when he did the sort of work, or at least these are the only samples that survived.
And this is also surprising: why is the sheer bulk of this particular type of works limited to the 1930's? Many of the pieces here are not dated or even signed, but the can usually be traced stylistically to a simlar piece that is. Some came from notebooks that contained dated pieces. One "Strange Visions" series came from a bound volume containing one picture dated 1937, and a 1943 Cal Art pay stub.
If you think about it, we don't have many paintings from this period: the bulk of hte paintings are from 1940 onwards. There are some 1930's paintings, but not nearly as many. Of course this could also mean that a lot of these early works were given away, as many of the 1940's Mendocino scenes have. Conversely, why are there so few drawings, on paper or cardboard, from later years? I think part of the explanation may lie in the period itself: this was, after all, the Depression. Victor and Muriel had recently been married and money was tight: pastels, and hardbaord are costly, compared to cheap paper and pencils.
Personality may have also had something to do with this. In the 1930's we are seeing an enthusiastic art student, drawing absolutely everything! His imagination seems limitless, although one would not call him overly idealistic. His images of the Depression show the times but do not, overall, convey a sense of bleakness or hopelessness. But as the years progress the imagination changes. Family images and pictures of the country begin to predominate, and the city and its people fade away. Most of these country scenes, presumably from the life at Pete's cabin, are idyllic, the father with his new family. But not all; disturbing elements crop up now and again. there are grossly exaggerated women, people with decidedly nasty traits, series of couples in unhappy if not violent relationships, and the beginnings of the style I call "Strange Visions". This style, wihich often makes one wonder what the artist was "on" at the time, conntinues throught the later paintings, like the alter ego of the idyllic landscape artist.
Changes in style continued throughout Victor's career. Most of us seem to prefer his detailed, expressive works of the 1940's to the most abstract style of the 1950's; by the 1960's the landscapes had become scarcely more than chalk photographs. By the 1970's Victor was clearly tired, disillusioned and illl; I can remember him telling Bob Moon that working as an artist was no better than any other job. He was producing few paintings then, but devoting all his energies to the freelance business after losing his job at Cal Art. The 1970's were depressing years for all the Andersons.
Moira Anderson Allen
I would like to end this biography on a higher note. Yes the 70's were not great years for any of us. In the course of one year, I lost three grandparents, and our family had to forcebly relocate. However, that was also the decade my sister Ayda was born, and the only regret about that is that my grandparents except for grandmother Muriel, never had a chance to meet her. I would also like to add that any further information on Victor's life and times is absolutely welcome and will gratefully be added to this site. Please contact me at email@example.com if you have any!