Millard Sheets holds a diverse and respected place in American art, and the variety of fine art works he left the world alongside of the places that carry his name today illustrate this completely. Primarily a prolific California watercolorist of renown, Sheets would began his studies at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and was exhibiting in the California Water Color Society annual shows as a teenager, became a member at 19, and was teaching at the Institute at the age of 20. He studied with both F. Tolles Chamberlin and Clarence Hinkle. He would go on to travel and exhibit all over the globe.
Alongside his watercolors, Sheets was a mural painter, illustrator and an architect, designing more than 50 Southern California banks. During World War II he was an artist-correspondent for Life magazine and the United States Air Force, primarily in India and Burma. He continued teaching his whole career, at Chouinard, with the Scripps Institute, and became the Director of Otis College of Art and Design in 1954, where the library is named for him. He also helped create and lead art exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Fair, whose program today carries Sheets name.
His style characteristics are definable by the period, with his early watercolors being the tightest in detail, his war periods as somber and dark tones, and his late 1950s and on paintings owning genius use of coloration and loose flowing content, but with superior eye for composition. Largely unknown is that he painted of a widely popular work, the large mural “Word of Life” on the University of Notre Dame Library wall, affectionately known throughout college football as “Touchdown Jesus”.
Sheets, as the leading proponent of California School of Painting is well represented in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, and throughout museums and collections of the world.