"Late Afternoon Moon", 1988, figures riding camels along the Nile
Watercolor on Arches paper under Plexiglas
Signed and dated lower right: Millard Sheets, signed and dated again and titled on the backing board
Sight: 28.75" H x 40" W
Provenance: Estate of Millard Sheets; thence by descent through the family to the present owner.
Notes: Millard Sheets commissioned Arches to deliver watercolor paper in this mammoth size, approximately 30" x 40". This painting represents one of twelve works Sheets painted in this size.
In May of 1929, a twenty-two year-old Millard Sheets received a telegram from San Antonio, informing him that he had won a $1,750 first prize for his painting "Goat Ranch" in a group competition for artists all across the United States. Having opened his first show with famed dealer Dalzell Hatfield that very same day, the possibilities of Sheets' career soared before him. With that prize money, Sheets booked passage on a ship traveling from Los Angeles to New York and thence onward to Europe. It was a pivotal moment in Sheets' development as an artist and the first of many adventures for him. Throughout his life, Sheets would travel to Mexico, Turkey, Uzbekistan, the Soviet Union, Greece, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Hong Kong, India, Britain, Yugoslavia, Tahiti, Moorea, Fiji, New Zealand, France, Spain, Portugal, Hawaii, China and Japan. The final trip of his life, made in 1985, was to Italy, Greece, and Egypt.
"Late Afternoon Moon", painted after his final journey in the last years of his life, is an at once stunning and subtle composition. The white moon rising just above the water visually anchors the frame, while the mountains and camels add a depth and direction that settle as a calm energy along the river. The absolutely incredible gradation of the sky - a light dusty beige haze rising unevenly towards a delicate blue - is testament to Sheets' mastery of watercolor as a medium. The pale pinks and purples in the clouds are so easy to miss for a casual viewer, although they are a small gem for connoisseurs of Sheets' oeuvre. In the end, the viewer is drawn into the serene, hazy Egyptian atmosphere of Late Afternoon Moon and may stand with Sheets on the banks of the Nile as he reminisces on his journey, both personal and physical.