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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Millard Sheets

Millard Sheets (1907-1989) was born in Pomona, California. He graduated from Chouinard Art Institute in 1929. Even before he finished his formal education, the California Water Color Society hired him to teach watercolor painting.

By the early 1930s, Sheets had already gained national recognition. He was exhibiting works in Paris, New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and was recognized as the leading figure in the California Style watercolor movement.

During the Depression, Sheets worked to hire artists for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Project. Later during World War II, he was an artist correspondent for Life magazine and the Army Air Force in India and Burma. The famine and death he witnessed there were reflected in the dark colors and themes of some of his works immediately after the war, but by the 1950s, he was using bright colors.

Sheets was a versatile artist, producing murals, sculpture, stained glass and interiors, in addition to his paintings. His art work has been widely exhibited in many museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Among the more than 150 murals he executed are works at the University of Notre Dame and in the dome at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

While Sheets was a talented painter in both watercolors and oils, this was only part of his overall art career. Through his directorship of the Scripps College Art Department, the Claremont Graduate School Art Department and the Otis Art Institute, he taught hundreds of artists how to paint, and then guided them into art careers. He also worked as an architect, illustrator, printmaker and juried art exhibitions.

A huge Sheets mural depicting the Battle of the Alamo made news in Texas in 2011 when the San Antonio Independent School District sold a building containing the 20' x 32' mural without even mentioning it in the listing. The company who bought the building had no idea they were getting a piece of art worth $200,000-400,000 in the transaction.

From, and

Moonlight at Barking Rocks
Padua Olive Hills Drive

Gaviota Range

Gypsy Camp

Afternoon, Hookena Beach, Hawaii

Death of Travis
Found in a building sold by the San Antonio ISD

Bahama Reef tile by Millard Sheets
from a Pomona Tile Manufacturing Company brochure


  1. Dana, I love this artist. I do. Gypsy Camp is my favorite. I know, predictable with the green and blue. But Death of Travis. Wow. What a magnificent painting. Truly stunning. California boy to boot. Thanks for another discovery... Happy 4th!!!!!! I hope you and the family enjoy the fireworks. :)

    1. I love the chartreuses in Gaviota Range. Isn't San Antonio ISD's treatment of that mural the weirdest thing you've ever heard? Happy 4th to you and your family too!

  2. Good morning Dana,

    I like the "Afternoon on Hookena Beach" most. Lovely colors. Thanks for sharing, I don´t know the artist since now.

    1. That is a lovely piece too. I stumbled upon his name when researching a post, and I'm so glad I did.

  3. I had one of the airline calendars he illustrated and I have been sorry for years that I sold it! What a dope.

    1. I think we've all sold thing that we wished later we had held onto...or sold something really cheap and later found out it was worth a ton of money. It always makes you groan a little when you're reminded of it.

  4. I love discovering new artists serendipitously. The moon is beautiful!

    1. I do too. Ironically, I learned about Sheets when researching the post I did about a silly little DIY project with tile. Sheets, along with Dong Kingman and Dorothy Liebes, designed some of the Pomona tile, as did Paul McCobb, George Nelson, Saul Bass and Paul Laszlo. Of course, I was familiar with the latter group, but it was a real pleasure to learn about the former.