The following is from Donald Eric Johnson, who as a child knew the artist:
Vivian Milner Akers (1886-1966) was born in Norway, Maine. His education was obtained at local schools and Hebron (Maine) Academy, then available without tuition to students of Oxford County. It is told he drew from an early age, and was influenced by nearby local “Summer” artists Douglas Volk, of Sweden, ME, Charles Fox and Curtis Perry of North Bridgton, ME, who ran an artists Colony with scholarships to such young men as Akers (also Marsden Hartley, among others). He was also influenced by visiting artists there: George DeForest Brush, Josephine Bradstreet, George Corcoran Lambdin, John Joseph Enneking, etc.
He taught Art in the local schools and also supported himself doing “Art Photography.” He was able to purchase the Wiggins Merrill Photography Studio at the corner of Main and Deering Streets in Norway, his studio for the rest of his life. He married Edith Verrill of New Haven, Connecticut, daughter of professor Addison Verrill of Yale University and native of nearby Greenwood, Maine. The marriage was presumably of short duration and there were no offspring. When I in the 1960’s as a child knew Akers my grandmother, Josephine Roy Twitchell, who took lessons from and was friends with Akers, never mentioned the marriage nor did he.
Akers attended the Art Students League in New York City and likely found friends through John Enneking who had a summer residence in nearby Greenwood, Maine. Akers as well as Douglas Volk visited there and the artists at that time shared an interest in pointillism.
Akers later studied in Paris and travelled Europe, I cannot be sure of who he studied with except Lefebvre. His earliest known work is a watercolor wash on paper titled “Lone Pine on the Intervale” dated October 5th 1912
(private Bridgton, ME collection), much in the style of contemporary works by Demuth, using washes. It is signed and titled in the lower margin using brown watercolor in a beaux arts type script.
His best work is found in a plein-aire impressionist style works much in the style of Enneking, but more finely finished. He used many small straight brushstrokes to accomplish this technique. pointillism is another style he experimented in, with good results, but to him it didn’t convey the air of Maine, and was abandoned. His greatest strength as an artist was conveying the unique skies and shadows found in Western Maine, painting morning, afternoon and night with equal aplomb.
Akers also was one of the original founders and carvers of the Harer frame makers, and at least one painting of a snowy brook dating from the 1920’s is housed in an original Harer frame (private, Sebago, ME collection). He, however, did not like to be under pressure to make a number of frames a day because it made his time for creating art in short supply. So he returned to Maine, and carved his own frames, some being sent to Harer, but in his distinctive incised carved script. He usually just carved for his own work, and some of his works still retain their signed incised carved “V.AKERS” frames. He painted, glazed or gilded them according to the customer’s ability to pay for each one. He sold them to other local artists, including my Grandmother named above. The usual ones consist of a two and a half inch stock, with a flat channel in the middle effectively recessing about two thirds of the face. He would then either carve (usually reeded chevrons or rusticated panels, or, earlier, carved corner gilt arts and crafts style) and do sgrafitto decoration in the gesso. He didn’t sign most of them, so it is rare to find a signed one now, especially housing it’s original painting.
A note from Samuel M. Robbins:
His first name was named after his mother’s family name, the Vivians. There were no men in the family that would carry on the family name.
The Norway, Maine Summer Festival of July 9-11, 2004 published a 4-page detailed biography of Akers life that fills in a lot of details not published elsewhere. It is available from the Norway Historical Society, 471 Main Street, Norway Maine 04268.