The Legacy of Millard Sheets

Happy 2010! So far, January has proved to be a month of intense interest in Millard Sheets — art museums, city historic-preservation offices, and enthusiastic fans of Sheets’s style have been contacting me constantly. Glad for the attention to the website, and to Sheets’s work!

Elsewhere I will update the list of known Sheets public artwork; here I want to think about Sheets’s legacy.

Valley  reader K sent along these photos of a stone-clad bank at 13949 Ventura Blvd, in Sherman Oaks. Built in 1989, it is a late Home Savings with frescoes of California history:

These images evoke the California Mission past — bells and vaguely Spanish, vaguely ecclesiastical architecture — with male figures engaged in plowing and (perhaps) seeding among the trees, old wooden instruments intended to heighten the sense of nineteenth-century nostalgia.

Many of Sheets’s works seem a bit more historically grounded to the locale– a conquistador in full attire at a bank in San Diego, a Victorian woman with parasol in San Francisco– though some of the images of horsemen might fit the same imagined time.

Any thoughts from you, readers, on what legacies of Sheets these images display? Clearly, the bank saw the continuation of Old California images as part of its identity. But does the chosen image tell us anything specific about Sherman Oaks? (I guess those are oak trees, so there is a local connection.)

Please let me know what you see, and keep spreading the word!

Posted in Home Savings and Millard Sheets and tagged , .


  1. I am trying to compile a list of the sculpture produced under the Sheets studio. My father John Edward Svenson produced 23 of them and worked closely with Sue Hertel and Dennis O’Connor. (Santa Monica, Palos Verdes, Ahmanson Center, Anaheim, San Bernardino, San Jose, Pomona….) Albert Steward did a few.. (Pasadena). Paul Manship sculpted (Europa and the Bull) in Hollywood..
    Sheets had quite a group of talent to choose from. My Mother was Sheets secretary for many years. I have the archives and am compiling a book on John Svenson now. Thanks for your interest and effort!

  2. Not so sure the above ceramic murals were designed by Millard. This was at a time when I think Home Savings was exploring less expensive means of adorning their buildings. Millard had closed his studio in roughly 1980. Sue Hertel gradually took over designing most of the art about that time. Denis O’Connor continued to execute the mosaics.

  3. Brian is correct, these were not designed by MS. The architect Homoka (sp?) took over the building design after millard retired from Home savings work. By then HS had gone national and they were duplicating much of the architectural design work.

  4. Wow, I found your blog in the Huntington newsletter and it is so thrilling to see the Home Savings (my first lender) murals given the honors they so deserve. I so hope Chase recognizes what treasures they own. As an ex-pat now living in Washington it is so fun to revisit this artwork. Thank you.

  5. What continues to amaze and hearten me is Millard’s ongoing importance
    to the art and architecture world. There is no question that he was an amazing
    human being, in his humanity, love of life, and truly outstanding gifts of art,
    teaching, architecture, and love of his fellow human beings. As his daughter, I
    consider myself to be truly and deeply blessed.
    Carolyn Sheets Owen-Towle

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