- Also known as
primary name: Spratling, William
- individual; painter/draughtsman; academic/intellectual; journalist/critic; printmaker; American (USA); Male
- Other dates
- 1920s-1950s (active)
- An American school teacher who began a revival of traditional Mexican silver work in Taxco and Iguala during the 1920s and 1930s. Later commissioned unsuccessfully to begin a similar program among Native Americans in Alaska. Collected a Tlingit carving in Alaska in 1952 that later became part of the Inverarity collection.
Additional biographical information:
Text from Dawn Adès and Alison McClean, 'Revolution on Paper, Mexican Prints 1910-1960', with the assistance of Laura Campbell, BMP, 2009:
William Spratling was born in New York. Although he did make several prints during his career, his main contribution to printmaking was through his involvement with the Weyhe Gallery, where he promoted Mexican printmakers such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera. His skills were many: he worked as an artist, journalist, architectural draughtsman and silver designer. His training, which included architecture and its history, began at the Art Students League before he went on to Auburn University, where he later held a teaching post. He also taught at Tulane University from 1921-9, contributing to architecture programmes. In 1945 he was the subject of a biographical documentary made by Warner Brothers.
Spratling earned his living writing for newspapers and magazines, including the 'New York Herald Tribune'; his articles discussed architecture and culture, many of them focused on Mexico. He was a friend of the American writer William Faulkner, with whom he co-authored a book, 'Sherwood Anderson and Other Famous Creoles' (1925). During the 1920s he met Carl Zigrosser, then managing director of the Weyhe Gallery. The two men established a lifelong friendship and Spratling became instrumental in coordinating work for the Weyhe Gallery in Mexico.
From 1926 Spratling started teaching summer courses on colonial architecture at the Universidad Nacional de México. He relocated permanently to the small mountain town of Taxco in 1929, one of the first of a number of writers and artists to settle there. His arrival in Mexico was planned to coincide with a Weyhe exhibition in Mexico City organized by Zigrosser, showing prints by European artists such as Gauguin, Picasso, and Toulouse Lautrec. Spratling exhibited some of his own prints, along with those of other American artists involved with the gallery, including Alfred Stieglitz. Once established in Taxco, Spratling set about obtaining prints from Siqueiros and Rivera to sell at the Weyhe Gallery, and in 1931 he wrote an article for the 'New York Herald Tribune' about Siqueiros, who had moved to Taxco when he was released from prison the previous year. Spratling also used his position to introduce artists and friends to Carl Zigrosser, which is how Caroline Durieux and Carlos Mérida became known by the Weyhe Gallery.
For his own prints, Spratling worked with George C. Miller who printed them in New York. These included the prints for his book, 'Little Mexico' (1932). He also established a reputation as a silversmith opening a silver workshop, the Taller de las Delicias, the first of its kind. This ran until 1945, when he went bankrupt; undeterred, he established a new silver workshop just two years later. He also collected archaeological artefacts, some of which he donated to the Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Anthropology Museum) in Mexico City. Spratling died in a car accident in 1967; his autobiography was published posthumously in the same year.