Yolande Jacobson Sheppard

Yolande Jacobson Sheppard (1921-1998) often worked in the shadow of husband/painter and University of Nevada, Reno, art professor, Craig Sheppard (1913-1978). Born in 1921, she received a degree in art from the University of Oklahoma at Norman. She arrived in Nevada in 1947, and over the next fifty years, created an impressive number of ceramic and bronze portraits of notable Nevadans, including a statue of Nevada U.S. Senator Pat McCarran.

Yolande Jacobson entered a major competitive exhibition at the Denver Art Museum in 1942, one year after university graduation. She didn't think she had much chance of being accepted, which made it all the more surprising when she was notified of her First Place award in Sculpture—she shared the exhibition hall with a number of major American sculptors.

The daughter of painter Oscar Jacobson (1882-1966), the first head of the University of Oklahoma art department, Yolande met a young art instructor named Craig Sheppard while still a student. The friendship that followed quickly deepened, and the couple was married in 1941.

The arrival of Craig Sheppard to chair the Department of Art at the University of Nevada, Reno, was a pivotal moment in the history of the visual arts in Nevada. The fact that his wife was a sculptor of considerable ability was, at first, largely overlooked. She most often deferred to her husband, and concerned herself with raising the couple's two children, Sim and Sophie.

In the years that followed, Yolande returned to sculpture and the subject she loved most-the portrait bust. At first she accepted commissions for near life-size ceramic likenesses of the children of friends. As these works received wider exposure, she began to receive commissions for bronze busts of some of Reno's movers and shakers, among them Dr. Charles Armstrong, president of the University of Nevada, Reno, (1911-1994); Joseph McDonald (1891-1971), an executive with Spiedel Newspapers; Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith, (1887-1967), founder of Harold's Club; and the distinguished American writer Walter Van Tilburg Clark (1909-1971).

The capstone of Sheppard's career was undoubtedly her commission for a larger-than-life bronze statue of Nevada Senator McCarran (1876-1954). Each state is allowed to place two commemorative statues in National Statuary Hall, located at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Sheppard attended the McCarran dedication on March 23, 1960, with Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer formally presenting the statue to Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson.

Sheppard died in 1998. The gallery in the Church Fine Arts Building on the UNR campus is named for Yolande and Craig Sheppard.

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