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 Joseph Marsh Sheridan  (1897 - 1971)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/California/Illinois      Known for: abstraction, graphics, sculptor

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Joseph Marsh Sheridan
An example of work by Joseph Marsh Sheridan
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted January 2005, is from Joyce Tostenson.

Joseph M. Sheridan was a friend of my mother, Pearl S. Howatt, now deceased. He walked into her restaurant one day in 1962 and ask for a cup of coffee. He had no money for food. She not only fed him but she allowed him to live in her home for quite a while. My closest recollection was that it was only in 1962. During that time I commissioned Joseph to paint a picture of each of my three children and one for myself. Of course I paid him for his work! I ended up with five pictures instead of four, however!

While Joseph was painting my youngest son, Thomas Daniel, he left for a few moments. By then, over half of the picture was painted. During that time my mischievous son kicked his painting easel over with the paint flying in every direction and ruined his canvas. Joseph stormed out of my house declaring never to paint Thomas's picture again!

In the meantime, Joseph decided to paint an abstract picture of a very naughty boy to give me, free of charge, in it's place. I accepted his gift! Meanwhile, one day as Joseph was sitting in my mother's restaurant, Howatt's Bar-B-Q in Menlo Park, CA, (now Mike's Cafe) my 5 year old son, Thomas, saw him, walked over to him, threw his arms around him and gave him a big kiss. He then climbed up on his lap. Joseph Sheridan had the sweetest grin on his face that I had ever seen!

Needless to say, he agreed to paint Thomas's picture again. But this time he wanted Thomas to hold his favorite toy...with hopes that would keep him quiet while he was being painted. The only toy I could find at the moment, that Joseph liked, was a bunny rabbit. It was included in his painting of Thomas, upon completion of the picture. The little rabbit did not belong to Thomas. It was a toy left at my home by a young boy named Aaron Vowles that lived across the street. He is President Herbert Hoover's great grandson! Aaron's mother, Joan Vowles, was the daughter of Herbert Hoover, Jr.

(Addendum to the above story. My son, Thomas Tostenson, who kicked over Joseph's easel with paint flying everywhere at five years old is living in Phoenix, AZ. He is now 47 years old and is a chaplain at St. Joseph's Hospital there. The picture of Thomas (Tom) holding the bunny rabbit is hanging in his home and he has the "little bad boy" abstract picture there as well).

Following is text from a copy of a newspaper article written in the "Palo Alto Times" in Palo Alto, CA. from a personal interview with Joseph Sheridan. My best recollection is that the article was written in 1962 as I'm pretty sure that Thomas was 5 years old at the time...he was born in 1957. A picture of Joseph Sheridan captioned "An Artist and his work" accompanied this article. Underneath the picture was written, "Joseph Sheridan is pictured with two of his works, including a painting of Mission San Juan Bautista."

Painted deserts

Artist lived among the Navajos
By Harold Stevens

Artist Joseph Sheridan, 64, has lived in a Navajo hogan, painted the deserts of the Southwest, and taught in a number of colleges during his busy roamings across the country since his graduation from Beloit College in 1922 and his decision to renounce writing and an actor's career in New York.

Among his "stops" is the Mid-peninsula, where he has lived off and on for several years. His former home was 23 Heather Lane, Atherton. At present he is residing temporarily at 143 East Creek Drive, Menlo Park, (My mother's home) while completing a couple of portraits. Later he will move to Fresno, then to Southern California. But he'll be back to this community after a while.

Navajos Friendly
During his stay on the desert Sheridan lived with and got to know the Navajo Indians well. He describes them as a friendly people with an impressive culture and a fine language, which many of them are learning to write. As an artist, he was interested in sand painting practiced by the medicine men, who are learned in the tribal mythology.

But the Navajos are not exclusively concerned with their mythology, he found. They are respectful of the white man's medicine as well as his ways of life. Most young people attend modern schools and learn the lessons of science and mechanics. Those who return to their homes on the desert often find it difficult to readjust to the traditional ways which center on agriculture and handcrafts, he explains.

Water Lack
Because of the restricted water supply, the maintenance of the tribe's sheep, mainstay of their agriculture, is difficult. The policy of the federal government is to relocate many of the young people off the desert. And so Indian silversmiths are commonly found in the centers rather than on reservations. Women practice their loomwork in their old settings, however.

The economic lot of the Navajos has improved since the stringent conditions of the recent past, Sheridan remarks. In some cases, the tribal people are enjoying an income from one of the key industries of the atomic age-uranium.

In painting the desert and it's Indian population Sheridan used both traditional methods and the abstract style, which he studied with Hans Hoffman during that German master's teaching stint at the University of California.

One Phase
The desert represents only one phase of Sheridan's "painting trips" during which, he says, he built up a series of works, both realistic and abstract. These embrace the theme of water (in Tennessee, North Carolina, Louisiana, the Mississippi, the Ohio river, the Red River and the Platte), industrial themes, the life of the city and rural life.

After graduation from the Chicago Art Institute, he taught at the University of Minnesota, Westminister College, Pa., Texas Christian College at Fort Worth, and the University of Arizona at Tucson.

Sheridan performs in about all the usual media, including oils, pastels, drawing, ceramic sculpture and prints. His mural decorations are to be found in several California schools as well as in homes and museums. He has exhibited widely. His work is being shown at Gallery House at present.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Quincy, IL on March 11, 1897. Sheridan studied at Beloit College, ASL in NYC, and the AIC. He taught English and dramatics in Quincy and in Rosewell, NM until 1928 when he abandoned that line of work to concentrate solely on art. He was an art instructor at the University of Minnesota (1929-30) and in 1931 moved to Berkeley where he studied with Hans Hofmann at UC. He established a studio in Berkeley and in 1933 studied with Archipenko at Mills College. In the mid-1940s he worked in the art departments of the University of Arizona and Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA. Sheridan died in Fresno, CA on March 3, 1971. Working in watercolor and tempera, his works are often abstract, symbolic, or strongly influenced by Cubism. He signed his paintings "Joseph." Exh: Minneapolis Inst., 1930; AIC, 1931, 1933; Gump's (SF); SFAA; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932-45; SFMA, 1932-45; Allied Arts Festival, LACMA, 1936; Mills College; UC. In: UC; Piedmont High School (mural); Mills College, Oakland (mural); SFMA; Castlemont High School, Oakland (mural); Berkeley Public Library; Univ. of Minnesota; Beloit College; Oakland Public Library.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); California Art Research, 20 volumes; Who's Who in American Art 1940-62.
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.

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