EDDIE ARNING was born near Kenney, Texas in 1899, the child of German immigrant parents. When he was in his twenties, he was committed to the state mental institution, and his family could not recall why. A crafts instructor at the hospital, Helen Mayfield, encouraged him to begin drawing on paper with wax crayons around 1965.
In the hospital he painted only subjects from childhood memory, images from farm life. His work earned him attention, and he was provided professional oil-base crayons and high-quality paper. He had no training and only wanted to make a "nice picture." His work has personal symbolism, including figures with raised arms. His early works were autobiographical and depict scenes from his childhood with animals, flowers, windmills and churches. Later, Arning became inspired by newspapers, advertisements and magazine illustrations and was producing more graphic images.
Before 1970, he was released to a private nursing home. He produced many works while there, moving into a period when he depicted modern subjects. He continued painting after he moved in with his sister in McGregor, Texas, around 1973, but eventually, having produced some 2,500 paintings, he lost interest in painting. He died on October 15, 1993, at the age of 94.
Arning is represented in numerous museums, including the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. and the American Folk Art Museum, New York.