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 William Hancock Wilke  (1879 - 1958)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: painting, etching, drawing, land and seascape painting, jewelry design

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
"Carmel Coast"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in San Francisco, California on June 1, 1879, Wilke was raised in the Mission District and studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute under Arthur Mathews.

Accompanied by Joseph Raphael, he traveled to Paris on a scholarship for further study under Laurens.  Prior to his departure he took French lessons from Nettie McConnell for whom he sent and married in Paris in 1903. 

After returning to San Francisco in 1905, he worked at Shreve's as a gold and silver designer for 33 years and, during the 1930s, worked with famed printer John Henry Nash.  Wilke died in Palo Alto, California on June 18, 1958.

Member: Calif. Society of Min. Painters; San Francisco Art Association; Calif. Society of Etchers (first sec.);  Calif. PM.

Exh: Mark Hopkins Inst., April 1906; PPIE, 1915 (gold medal); Calif. Statewide (Santa Cruz), 1928; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932; GGIE, 1940.

In: CHS; Mills College (Oakland); Society of Calif. Pioneers; De Young Museum.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; American Art Annual 1915-31; Art in California (R. L. Bernier, 1916); Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 cat.; Who's Who in American Art 1936-53; Oakland Tribune, 6-19-1958 (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 Hess Fine Art & Auctions:
William Hancock Wilke was born in San Francisco, California on June 1, 1879 and grew up in the city's Mission District. Wilke lost his father when he was just 10 years old and found solace in art.

Although largely a self-taught artist, Wilke studied at the Mark Hopkins Institute under Arthur Mathews and later received a scholarship to study in Paris under Jean Paul Laurens. In preparation for his time in Paris, Wilke studied French language with Nettie McConnell, whom he soon married and brought to France with him. They returned to San Francisco in 1905 while Nettie was pregnant with their first child, and as a family, they experienced the catastrophic San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

As a young father and breadwinner, Wilke worked several jobs to keep the family afloat. One of those jobs was to deliver bread, which he delivered to many of the fine homes of San Francisco. Often Wilke would draw on the paper they would wrap the bread in. One of the well to do and powerful recipients of this artfully wrapped bread, George Hearst - father of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst - encouraged his son to hire Wilke to do artwork for his Examiner Newspaper, work he received and a position he held for many years.

Although William Hancock Wilke also worked for Shreve's for thirty-three years as a jewelry designer, he is remembered as an artist whose etchings, paintings, drawings, land and seascapes depicted various aspects of California life. William Wilke also designed bookplates for many famous and influential people, among them Mark Twain and William Randolph Hearst.

During the 1930's Wilke worked with famed printer John Henry Nash.

Wilke was a member of the California Society of Miniature. Painters; San Francisco Art Association; and California Society of Etchers. Wilke exhibited at Mark Hopkins Institute (April 1906); Panama Pacific Exposition 1915 (gold medal); California Statewide (Santa Cruz), 1928; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1940.

Biography written by Mark Montana & Jeffrey P. Hess for Hess Fine Art.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

William Wilke is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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