Ralph Ward Stackpole Biography

Ralph Ward Stackpole





Ralph Ward Stackpole  was born on May 1, 1885 in Williams, Oregon, moving to San Francisco at age 16, where he enrolled at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, where he studied with painter Arthur Mathews.  

He worked with sculptor Arthur Putnam and painter Gottordo Piazzoni, then went to Paris. While in Paris, he studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts and sculpture at Atelier Mercie.  Returning to San Francisco in 1908, he fulfilled several sculpture commissions before going to New York City in 1911 to study painting with Robert Henri. Upon his return to San Francisco he became part of the art scene of the teens and twenties. In 1912 Stackpole was one of the founders of the California Society of Etchers, along with Robert Harshe, Pedro Lemos and Gottardo Piazzoni. He exhibited 3 etchings in the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.

As early as 1919 Stackpole was creating bronze heads, e.g., James Seawell, in City Hall. Timothy Pfleuger commissioned two carved pylons representing Earth's Fruitfulness and Man’s Inventive Genius in 1928-32 to stand outside the San Francisco Stock Exchange. It was Stackpole who knew Edward Bruce and suggested telegraphing him when Bernard Zakheim proposed that the artists organize in 1933. He is also credited with introducing Diego Rivera to San Francisco by recommending him to paint a mural at the San Francisco Stock Exchange in 1930-31. In 1918 he joined the staff of the San Francisco Art Institute, and taught sculpture at that school until 1941. He also taught for a two year period (1936-38) at Mills College in Oakland.

“His writing is lucid and excellent, perhaps because he barely finished the eighth grade in a backwoods Oregon school,” said one of his prize students, Frederick Olmsted. Remarked Olmsted,“Stackpole stretches over two generations. While I was first chewing a rubber ring he was well established making sensitive and illustrative portraits of children, friends, famous people.” He went on to wonder how Stackpole could create, faced as he was “with the necessities of both constant innovation and monumental work,” yet “his work stands all over the state, the chips forming a geological layercake on the stoneyard floor."

Ralph Ward Stackpole died on December 10, 1973 in Chauriat, France.