Willard F. Clark Biography

Willard F. Clark




Painter, printmaker and illustrator Willard F. Clark was born in Massachusetts in 1911, but was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina where his father was president of the General Motors Argentina branch. Clark studied art in Argentina, the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, and at the Grand Central Gallery in New York. He then worked for a time as a commercial illustrator, but an interest in portrait painting led him out west. He headed to California to visit his father who had relocated there in 1928, and stopped in New Mexico along the way. After a visit to Santa Fe, then a major hub for woodcut artists and painters of the Southwest, he quickly decided it was where he wanted to live.


He taught himself woodengraving, metal plate etching, and typesetting, and opened a small shop on the Senza Plaza. In 1930 he married Bertha Berchtold, with whom he built a two story adobe house, opening his own commercial printing business on the bottom floor. There he not only printed illustrations and ephemera for businesses such as Fred Harvey hotels, but his own blockprints to sell as well. He was also known for his paintings and murals that popped up throughout the town. Despite the success of the shop, however, in 1942 he shuttered it and took a job as a master tool and die machinist for the National Laboratory in Los Alamos; he remained there for over 30 years.

After retiring in 1979, Clark purchased a small press and returned to woodengraving, now with the knowledge and precision of a machinist. He created several miniature images of scenes of Santa Fe, and eventually published a series of prints documenting his memories of Santa Fe as it had been on his arrival, the style of which echoed the styles popular at that time. These were compiled into "Remembering Santa Fe", a book of 48 original prints about life in Santa Fe from 1928 - 1943.


In 1992, at the age of 83, he was given his first exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, shortly before he died.