Millard Owen Sheets

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"Boat Landing, Market Day in Patzcuaro"
22 1/4 x 30 inches

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Millard Owen Sheets was born in Pomona, California on June 24, 1907 to John Gaspar Sheets and Milly Owen. Because Sheets’ mother passed away, his father left him with his maternal grandparents. 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. Artist and director Theodore B. Modra saw talent in Sheets and invited Sheets to bring his artwork to his house for him to critique. Throughout his career, Modra was mentor and friend to Sheets. In 1923, he submitted a painting to the Laguna Art Association and was accepted. Here, he met artist Clarence Hinkle who would later on become one of his mentors and teacher.

After graduating from Pomona High School, Sheets enrolled at the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles (1925-29) where he was a pupil of artists F. Tolles Chamberlin and Hinkle. While in school, Chamberlin suggested that Sheets work in watercolors and he was so adept with this medium that the founder and director of the school, Nelbert Chouinard asked Sheets to teach a watercolor class while attending other curriculum courses. Along with his students, Millard Sheets joined the California Watercolor Society. He achieved his first successful exhibition when he was picked up by Los Angeles art dealer Dalzell Hatfield, who gave Sheets his first one-man 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 took a trip to Europe. During this period, his works changed in style from a modified form of impressionism to a mural-like composition with a flattened perspective with simplified forms.

Upon his return, he began teaching at Chouinard Art School while continuing to paint. He submitted a watercolor to the Carnegie International and was the first accepted artist west of the Mississippi River for the Carne into the exhibition. After Modra’s death in 1930, Sheets assumed directorship of the art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Fair while teaching 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, the first New Deal art project that provided work for artists during the Great Depression.

In 1939, with World War II approaching, Sheets was able to utilize his skills as a designer and architect to design 17 air cadet training schools for the United States Air Corps. 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. After he left his position at Scripps College, he then spent six years as director of the Los Angeles Art Institute (Otis Art Institute). He resigned in 1959 and in 1960, Sheets moved north to the Mendocino coast where he built his dream home "Barking Rocks" in Gualala. He lived there 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 Art, 1930; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932; Century of Progress Exposition, Chicago, 1932; Foundation of Western Art, 1936; New York’s 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 WC Society, 1987.

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

Artists in California: 1786-1940 by Edan Milton Hughes
A Tapestry of Life: The World of Millard Sheets by Janet Blake