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Millard Sheets

 (1907 - 1989)
Millard Owen Sheets was active/lived in California.  Millard Sheets is known for modernist painting-genre-views, horse, coastal.

Millard Sheets

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Millard Sheets
Born in Pomona, California and living much of his life in Southern California, Millard Sheets earned a reputation as one of the foremost watercolorists of his era.  His subjects were landscapes and scenes of urban and rural people in humble living circumstances.  He said that he was willing to be called a regionalist only if you accepted the idea that his work embraced a large region.

It is said that of all the Depression-era artists, he was the most representative of the California School*, part of the American Scene* movement.  According to Susan Anderson in her essay, 'California Holiday', for American Art Review, June 2002, he was a "colorful, larger-than-life character possessing equal measures of talent and ambition" and he "set the direction for the school."

In addition to having painting talents, he was an architect, mural designer, and maker of tapestries and mosaics*.  Projects included the mosaic dome and chapel at the National Shrine in Washington DC, the mosaic library tower at the University of Notre Dame, the mosaic facade of the Detroit Public Library, mural at the Rainbow Tower of the Hilton Hotel in Honolulu, and murals for the Los Angeles City Hall.

He studied at the Chouinard Art Institute* in Los Angeles with Clarence Hinkle and F. Tolles Chamberlin.  After graduation in 1929, he taught watercolor classes at Chouinard and his use of this medium encouraged many others to follow suit including Phil Dike, Lee Blair, Hardie Gramatky, Barse Miller, Phil Paradise and Paul Sample.  They had much camaraderie amongst themselves and joined the California Water Color Society*, stirring state-wide interest and ultimately a national revival of interest in that medium.  Watercolor with its quick drying, fast moving qualities seemed to reflect the mood of the country of going fast and being flexible.

Later, beginning 1938 Sheets chaired both the art departments at Scripps College in Claremont and was director of the Claremont Graduate School.  Excepting military service during World War II, he remained at Claremont until 1954 to 1960 when he headed the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.  After that time period, he had a studio for architectural design, mosaics and murals, and for the next twenty years executed over 100 buildings throughout the United States, mostly with mosaics and murals.

His national recognition began in 1930 when his work was selected for inclusion in the Carnegie Institute's International Exhibition of Paintings, the most important United States exhibition at that time.  In World War II, he was an artist reporter in Burma and India, and he designed Luke Air Force base in Phoenix, Arizona.  He was a member of the National Academy of Design*.

Other exhibition venues included the Arizona State Fair, 1928-1930; San Antonio Art Association, 1929; Corcoran Galleries Biennials, 1932 to 1949; Kansas City Art Institute; Nebraska Art Association in Lincoln; and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts*, 1929 to 1940.

His paintings are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, the National Gallery in Washington D.C.; the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco; and the Los Angeles County Museum.

Memberships included the West Coast Watercolor Society, California Watercolor Society, California Art Club*, and the Bohemian Club*.

Susan Anderson, "California Holiday", American Art Review, June 2002
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Millard Sheets
Born in Pomona, California on June 24, 1907, Sheets grew up on a ranch where he developed a love of the land and horses.  After graduating from Pomona High School, he enrolled at the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles (1925-29) where he was a pupil of Chamberlin and Hinkle.  He further studied with Theodore Modra.

After traveling and painting in Europe, he taught at Chouinard from 1929-34 and in 1948. During the 1920s and 1930s he came into national focus with his regionalist scenes similar to those of Thomas Hart Benton.  He was an art professor and director at Scripps College from 1932-55 and then spent six years as director of the Otis Art Institute.  In 1960, Sheets moved north to the Mendocino coast where he built his dream home "Barking Rocks" in Gualala.  He lived there until his death on March 31, 1989.

His works are mostly landscapes inspired by California and his world travels. As an architectural designer and muralist, he produced over 100 murals and mosaics and designed a like number of buildings including the Home Savings & Loan buildings throughout California.

California Art Club; American Watercolor Society; Bohemian Club; National Academy.

Los Angeles County Fair, 1918, 1928 (1st prizes); California Watercolor Society, 1926-55; Arizona State Fair, 1928 (1st prize); Paris Salon, 1929; Hatfield Gallery (LA), 1929 (1st solo); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1930; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932; Century of Progress Exposition (Chicago), 1933; Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1937; Whitney Museum (New York City), 1939; New York World's Fair, 1939; Golden Gate International Exhibition, 1939; Pasadena Art Institute, 1950 (solo); Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1966.

Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Scripps College; White House (Washington, DC); San Diego Museum; Los Angeles Public Library; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Seattle Museum; Cleveland Museum; Smithsonian Inst.; Metropolitan Museum of Art; De Young Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; National Museum of American Art; Whitney Museum; Carnegie Institute (Pittsburgh); High Museum (Atlanta); San Jose (CA) Airport (mural); Pasadena Jr. High School; Irvine (CA) Museum; Orange Co. (CA) Museum; Fort Worth (TX) Museum.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Los Angeles Times, 9-7-1930; American Art Annual 1933; Who's Who in American Art 1936-70; Who's Who in California 1942; Who's Who on the Pacific Coast 1947; West As Art; Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Millard Sheets, Six Decades of Painting; SF Examiner, 4-5-1989 (obituary).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Millard Sheets
Member of: Laguna Beach Art Association, National Academician (1947), California Art Club, American Watercolor Society, Soc. Motion Picture Art Direct., Bohemian Club.  

Exhibits include: LA County Fair, California WCS, Arizona State Fair, PAFA, Dalzell Hatfield Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California State Fair, Santa Cruz AL, Oakland Art Gallery, P & S C, Corcoran Gallery, Foundation of Western Art, Art Institute of Chicago, World's Fair New York, Golden Gate Exposition, Whitney Museum of American Art, Pasadena Art Institute, Denver Art Museum, Faulkner Memorial Gallery, Currier Gallery of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, VMFA, Carnegie Institute, City Art Museum of St. Louis, Albright Art Gallery, Kansas City Art Institute, Nebraska Art Association, Delgado Museum of Art, Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Springfield Art Museum, Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, Honolulu Academy of Art, Milch Gallery, University of Nebraska, and others.  

Outer Cape Art Auctions

Biography from California Watercolor
Biography photo for Millard Sheets
Millard Sheets, N.A. (1907-1989) Born: Pomona, CA; Studied: Chouinard Art Institute (Los Angeles); Member: National Academy of Design, New York Water Color Club, American Watercolor Society, California Water Color Society. Millard Sheets was a native California artist and grew up in the Pomona Valley near Los Angeles. He attended the Chouinard Art Institute and studied with F. Tolles Chamberlin and Clarence Hinkle. while still a teenager, his watercolors were accepted for exhibition in the annual California Water Color Society shows and by nineteen years of age, he was elected into membership. At twenty, even before he graduated from Chouinard, they hired him to teach watercolor painting while completing other aspects of his art education.

By the early 1930s, he was well on his way to national recognition as a prominent American artist. He was exhibiting works in Paris, New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Baltimore and many other cities throughout the United States. At home in Los Angeles, he was recognized as the leading figure and driving force behind the California Style watercolor movement.

Between 1935 and 1941, the recognition, awards, and his output of high quality art increased. He was mentioned in numerous issues of Art Digest, had a color reproduction in the book Eyes on America, and in 1935 at age twenty eight, he was the subject of a book published in Los Angeles. Sales of art enabled him to travel to Europe, Central America and Hawaii, where he painted on location. Although his watercolor painting techniques during this period varied from very tight to very loose, his personal style always came through.

During World War II, he was an artist-correspondent for Life magazine and the United States Air Force in India and Burma. Many of his works from this period document the scenes of famine, war and death that he witnessed. This experience also effected his post war art for a number of years. Many of his works from the 1940s, painted in California and Mexico, reflect these mood shifts, especially when he used dark tonal values and depressing subject matter. After the 1950s, his style changed again, this time featuring brighter colors and often times depicting subjects from his travels around the world.

While Sheets was a talented painter in both watercolors and oils, this was only part of his overall art career. Though his teaching at Chouinard Art Institute, Otis Art Institute, Scripps College and other institutions, hundreds of artists were taught how to paint, and then guided into an art career. He was director of the art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Fair for many years and brought world class art to Southern California. During the Depression, he worked with Edward Bruce to hire artists for the W.P.A. Art Project. In 1946, he served as a president of the California Water Color Society. In later years he worked as an architect, illustrator, muralist, printmaker and juried art exhibitions.

Biographical information:
Interview with Millard Sheets, 1983.
Stary-Sheets Fine Art Galleries, Laguna Beach, 1998.

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,
©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

Biography from The John Stewart Gallery
Born in Ponoma, California, in 1907, Millard Sheets was a Californian who specialized in depicting the West Coast urban poor in such famous paintings as his Tenement Flats (probably the most significant painting executed in California in the 1930s) currently in the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.  His particular use of light and color distinguished him from his East Coast contemporaries.

Sheets attended the Los Angeles School of Art as the pupil of F.T. Chamberlain and Clarence Hinkle.  After graduating in 1929, he had his first solo exhibition at Dalzell Hatfield Galleries in Los Angeles.  Sheets was the director of exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Fair from 1931 to 1959.

Sheets served as a war artist for Life magazine, covering the Burma-India front from 1943 to 1944. Upon his return to California, he executed mosaic murals throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

In addition, Sheets executed the architectural design for many buildings, illustrated for national magazines, and handled production design for Columbia Pictures.  During this time, he served as director of Arts at Scripps College, in Claremont, California.

Sheets saw his work as a synthesis of Cubism and Impressionism.  He traveled throughout Europe, Central America, Mexico, the United States, the Pacific and the Orient, but continued to live permanently in Gualala, California.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Santa Monica
Biography photo for Millard Sheets
Millard Sheets was born in Pomona, California, in 1907. He attended the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles, studying with Clarence Hinkle.  Following a painting trip through Europe, Sheets returned to Los Angeles to teach at Chouinard.  He is best remembered for his Depression-era regionalist works known as the "California Scene Paintings." Sheets spent 20 years teaching at Scripps College, and six years as the Director of the Otis Institute before retiring to Mendocino County in 1960.

Biography from Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College
Millard Owen Sheets was born, raised, and educated in Southern California. He was born June 24, 1907 in Pomona, California, and studied at the Chouinard Art Institute (B.A.) and at Otis (M.F.A.), both in Los Angeles.  Sheets went on to become a member of the executive committee that ran the local PWAP (first New Deal art project).  He was one of the fifteen artists chosen nationally to paint murals in the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

During World War II he was made a war artist in India and Burma for Life magazine. From the late 1930's until 1955, he headed the art departments at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School.  In 1953 he became the Director of the Otis Art Institute. While in this position he created a new official seal for the County of Los Angeles.

For more than 27 years Sheets designed buildings and artistic decoration for the Offices of Home Savings of America branches throughout California, until his death in 1989.

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About  Millard Sheets

Born:  1907 - Pomona, California
Died:   1989 - Gualala, California
Known for:  modernist painting-genre-views, horse, coastal