Millard Sheets was a renowned 20th century artist, educator, and architectural designer. Sheets’ watercolor and oil paintings were widely exhibited from early in his artistic career, and are included in the collections of many major museums. Yet some of Sheets’ best known artworks are architectural in scale depicting local history in a series of connected scenes similar to this mural for the San José International Airport from 1976.
Sheets also had an impact outside the studio throughout his career. During the early 1930s, he hired artists on the West Coast as part of the Public Works of Art Project (W.P.A), to enhance Federal buildings with art. During World War II, he was an artist correspondent for Life magazine and the United States Army Air Forces in China, India and Burma. He was the Director of Art Exhibitions for the Los Angeles County Fair from 1931 to 1956 bringing world class art to Southern California. From the early 1950s through the mid 1970s, he designed many architectural projects, including 40 Home Savings and Loan branch locations throughout California and similar banks in Texas. His other involvements ranged from working for Columbia Pictures as a technical advisor to designing seventeen air schools for the United States Air Force prior to WWII.
Millard Sheets taught widely. He was Director of the Scripps College Art Department from 1938 to 1954 and Director of the Los Angeles County Art Institute (Otis College of Art and Design) from 1953 to 1961. Among the more than 150 murals he executed are the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; the dome of Washington D.C.’s National Shrine; the Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame; the Rainbow Hilton in Honolulu, Hawaii; and Los Angeles City Hall. The San José International Airport mural was Sheets’ last mural.