Ralph Stackpole

Theme/Style – Impressionism, California Modernism, Abstraction

Media – Oils, murals, sculpture, etching

Artistic Focus – Internationally recognized as a sculptor and painter, Ralph Stackpole built a career that spanned the period from the more romantic, idealized European art of the late 1800s and early 1900s through the development of Modernism in America, and into 20th Century Abstraction.

Career Highlights –

• Born in Oregon, Stackpole moved to San Francisco at the age of 16, and while apprenticed to sculptor Arthur Putnam, he began his art studies at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art.
• Following the 1906 earthquake, he traveled to Paris, where he worked with Putnam and painter Gottardo Piazzoni in their studio and continued his studies.
• Returning to San Francisco in 1908, Stackpole immediately obtained a number of sculpture assignments, beginning a long career creating sculptures for parks and public spaces throughout Northern California.
• He championed the Renaissance-era “direct cut” method of sculpture, preferring to carve in stone and other natural materials.
• In 1930, Stackpole created the monumental figures Mother Earth and Man and His Inventions in front of the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange in San Francisco.
• During the same year, he befriended Diego Rivera and was instrumental in bringing the muralist to San Francisco.
• It was Rivera’s example that Stackpole emulated when painting his Coit Tower fresco in 1934; rather than making a political statement in his Industries of California mural, Stackpole used the art to honor California’s workers and the industries in which they toiled.
• Stackpole created the famed Pacifica sculpture, the eighty-foot symbol of the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-40, which was held on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.
• For much of his career, Stackpole was a sculpture instructor at both the San Francisco Art Institute and Mills College.
• In 1949, he moved to France, where he lived until his death.