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Millard Sheets (1907-1989)

Millard Sheets was born in Pomona, California on June 24, 1907. Having seen Sheets’ talent, his aunts encouraged him to pursue a career in the arts. He entered a painting and won the Los Angeles County Fair prize for the landscape paintings division. 


Sheets enrolled at the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles  in 1925, here he was a pupil of artists F. Tolles Chamberlin and Hinkle. While in school, Chamberlin suggested that Sheets work in watercolors. Sheets was so adept with this medium that founder and director of the school, Nelbert Chouinard, asked him to teach a watercolor class while attending other classes. He achieved his first successful solo exhibition at the Newhouse Galleries. This exhibition would be a stepping stone in which Sheets would later gain not just regional but national success in the 1920s and 1930s. After graduation, Sheets traveled to Europe, where his works would come to change in style from a modified form of Impressionism to a mural-like composition with a flattened perspective with simplified forms.


Upon his return, he taught at Chouinard while continuing to paint. He submitted a watercolor to the Carnegie International and was the first accepted artist west of the Mississippi River into the exhibition. In 1930 Sheets assumed directorship of the art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Fair and taught at Scripps College in Claremont. In 1933, he was selected as one of the Southern California directors of the local Public Works of Art Project. Sheets established the Millard Sheets Design studio in Claremont and completed over 100 murals and mosaics in his career. While opening his business, Sheets was also an art professor and director at Scripps College from 1934-54, and later at Los Angeles Art Institute.


In 1960 Sheets moved north to the Mendocino coast where he lived until his death on March 31, 1989. Although his style varied over the years, his works remained representational and are mostly landscapes inspired by California and his world travels. As an architectural designer and muralist, he designed a great number of buildings including Home Savings & Loan buildings throughout California.


Member: California Art Club; California Watercolor Society (President, 1946 - 1947); American Watercolor Society; Bohemian Club; National Academy of Design.


Exhibited: Los Angeles County Fair, 1918; Hatfield Gallery, 1929; Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, 1930; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932; Century of Progress Exposition, Chicago, 1932; Foundation of Western Art, 1936; New York World's Fair, 1939; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1939; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939; Pasadena Art Institute, 1950 (solo); Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1966; American Watercolor Society, 1987.


Works Held: Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Scripps College, Claremont, California; White House, Washington D.C.; San Diego Museum of Art; Los Angeles Public Library; Metropolitan Museum, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Cleveland Museum, Ohio; Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.; Seattle Art Museum, Washington; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Whitney Museum, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; San Jose Airport, California (mural); Pasadena Junior High School, California.


Sources: Artists in California: 1786-1940, Edan Hughes 

A Tapestry of Life: The World of Millard Sheets, Janet Blake

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