Theme/Style – Arts and Crafts, landscape, illustration
Media – Oil
Artistic Focus – William Bull’s long career in commercial and illustration art makes his original jewel-like landscape paintings of northern California scenes such as San Francisco landmarks, Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon, and Yosemite National Park all too rare. His richly-toned scenes of architecture, trees, hillsides and forest groves remain fine examples of California’s Arts and Crafts aesthetic.
Career Highlights –
- William Howell Bull was born in Buffalo, New York in 1861. In 1893 Bull traveled to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where he saw an exhibition of California landscape paintings and was inspired to go west.
- On his arrival in Fresno, California, Bull and several other men traveled to the Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring and sketching the south fork of the Kings River; and Bull was to remain there for almost a year before coming to San Francisco.
- In San Francisco Bull began to make his living as an illustrator and commercial artist, creating a California Mission Calendar for the city’s Dodge Book and Stationery Company in 1898; and his illustrations were published in War Poems (compiled by the California Club, 1898) and A California Idyl (1899). Around this time Bull also became the Southern Pacific Railroad’s first commercial artist, creating elaborate posters depicting the railroad’s destinations, as well as maps and other materials.
- Bull exhibited with the San Francisco Art Association in 1900; and in 1902, as a reaction to the group’s more conservative views, he cofounded the California Society of Artists, along with Gottardo Piazzoni, Xavier Martinez, Charles Peter Neilson, Blendon R. Campbell and Matteo Sandona.
- Also in 1902, Bull married and moved south of San Francisco to San Mateo, California, where he continued as an artist and illustrator for the Southern Pacific and also the Pacific Electric Railroad. His illustrations were also included in Stanford Stories: Tales of a Young University (1913); and in Sunset magazine, where his striking depiction of San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts graced the cover of its January 1915 issue.
- Around 1924 Bull concluded his career as a commercial artist and devoted himself exclusively to his own landscape painting.
- William Bull passed away in San Mateo in 1940.
- Bull’s work is in the collections of the California State Railroad Museum and California State Library, Sacramento; and in 2017 one of Bull’s landscape paintings was included in the exhibition “At Home with Arts and Crafts” in the International Terminal of San Francisco International Airport.
Selection of Works by this Artist
Bibliographic references are available upon request.