"Adobes in Moonlight"
Will Sparks -
Painter, etcher, and muralist, Will
Sparks became one of California's premier artists, known for his mission
and nocturnal adobe scenes. He was highly prolific, completing about
three-thousand oil paintings.
He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and showed art talent as a
youngster, selling his first painting when he was age twelve. He became
a doctor, but his love of art prevailed. He attended the St. Louis
School of Fine Arts and then went to New York and then Paris to the
Academies Julian and Colarossi where he studied with Gerome, Harpignies,
and Bouguereau. In Paris he earned money as an assistant to biologist
Louis Pasteur for whom he made anatomical drawings. He was also much
influenced by the Barbizon painters and Cezanne.
He returned to St. Louis and in 1886 exhibited in the St. Louis Expo
where he met Mark Twain whose stories of California inspired him to head
West. He stayed briefly in Cincinnati and Denver and then California,
where he did newspaper illustrations in Stockton and Fresno.
In 1891, he settled in San Francisco, establishing a studio at 163
Sutter Street. He combined illustration work and writing for the San
Francisco Evening Call with easel painting including all of the
California missions. He was a member of the Bohemian Club, a
free-spirited, fun loving group that lived "hand-to-mouth" for their
He also painted in Arizona, and a painting Tucson was done in
In 1904, he joined the faculty of the University of California, doing
anatomy drawings for medical classes, and in 1907, he was a founder of
the Del Monte Art Gallery. He died in San Francisco on March 30, 1937.
His paintings are in the collections of the Huntington Library in San
Marino and the Crocker Museum in Sacramento.
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Call (800) 833-9185 or email to
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