Lionel Walden was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on May 22, 1861, but spent his early years in various cities before going to Minnesota, where his father served as the rector of an Episcopal church. There Walden first became interested in art. Later, in Paris, he studied under E. A. Carolus-Duran and became as adept at figure painting as he later would be at seascapes. A frequent exhibitor in the Paris Salons, he received medals in 1900 and 1903 and was made a Knight of the French Legion of Honor in 1910. Walden also exhibited to acclaim at the Saint Louis Exposition of 1900 and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. His first visit to Hawaii in 1911 was by the invitation of fellow artist Kimo Wilder, with whom he stayed at Waikiki and on Tantalus.
In April 1912 Walden returned to France but he spent half his time in the islands, and more during World War I. Although he specialized in seascapes, he continued to produce landscapes and volcano scenes. For a number of years he also gave private lessons and, in collaboration with D. Howard Hitchcock and other artists, produced murals for public buildings in Honolulu. Walden was a frequent contributor to group shows, and after the Honolulu Academy of Arts opened in 1927, for a number of years the artist had at least one canvas in every group exhibition of the Hawaiian Society of Artists. He died in Chantilly on July 12, 1933.
Lionel Walden was the finest seascape painter to work in Hawaii. He was magnetized by the colors he saw in the landscape and the sea. “I have watched the moon rise over that mountain (Diamond Head) and seen the silvery sheen on the swell as it rolls over the beach,” he commented to a reporter. Although his scenes of white frothy waves dashing dramatically against rocky coasts are most familiar, he painted the sea in all its moods, colors, and actions.
The above information and photos are taken from Encounters with Paradise by David W. Forbes, courtesy Honolulu Academy of Arts.