A painter, muralist, sculptor, etcher and art educator, Ralph Stackpole was concerned about social realist causes, especially during the Depression era of the 1930s when he was part of the Federal Art Project for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). That focus on economic problems combined with his interest in mural painting led to him being responsible for bringing the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera to San Francisco in 1930. Rivera lived in Stackpole's studio during his stay in the city.
Ralph Stackpole was born in Williams, Oregon on May 1, 1885, and he arrived in San Francisco at age 16. He enrolled at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art where he studied with Arthur Mathews and was apprenticed in the studio of Arthur Putnam. After the earthquake of 1906 destroyed most of San Francisco, he joined Putnam and Gottardo Piazzoni in their studio in Paris, and these two men had a great influence on him as a developing young artist.
While in Paris, he studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts and Atelier Merces. Returning to San Francisco in 1908, he fulfilled several sculpture commissions before going to New York City in 1911 to study painting with Robert Henri.
In 1912, he established his San Francisco studio at 728 Montgomery Street, and began a great output of oil paintings and sculpture commissions including statuary for the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915 and the GGIE of 1939. In 1918 he joined the staff of the San Francisco Art Institute, and taught sculpture at that school until 1941 and also for a two year period (1936-38) at Mills College in Oakland.
Stackpole fluctuated throughout his career between oil painting and sculpting, but it is his sculpture which has brought him international renown. He was active in San Francisco until 1949, and then moved to Chauriat, France where he remained until his death on Dec. 10, 1973.
Memberships: San Francisco Art Association; San Francisco Art Commission; California Society of Etchers (cofounder, 1913).
Exhibitions: San Francisco Art Association 1906-35 (gold medals); Paris Salon, 1907, 1921, 1923; Panama Pacific Exposition 1915; California Liberty Fair, 1918 (1st prize); Gumps (SF), 1926, 1948; Museum of Modern Art, 1933; Calif.-Pacific Int'l Expo (San Diego), 1935; San Francisco Museum of Art 1935; GGIE, 1939.
Collections: San Francisco Museum of Art; Plaza Park, Sacramento (Coleman Fountain); Sacramento City College (fresco); UCLA; Stanford Univ.; San Francisco Stock Exchange (pylons); San Francisco Federal Bldg (mural); Masonic Temple, SF (figures); Colt Tower (mural, Industries of California); Department of Interior Bldg, Washington, DC (bust); San Francisco City Hall (bust); George Washington High School, San Francisco (mural); California School of Fine Art (mural); UC Berkeley Hall of Agriculture (bust); USC (bust); Land Park, Sacramento (fountain); Stanford University (bust). CAR; Sculpture of the Exposition; 100 Years of California Sculpture; Painters & Sculptors; Ber; AAA 1919-33; San Francisco Chronicle, 9-29-1935; WWAA 1936-41; NY Times, 12-13-1973 (obit).