Born in Richmond, Virginia, American artist William Sheppard was variously a watercolorist, illustrator, teacher, and painter. He first made his mark in commercial art as the designer of tobacco labels. His artistic preparation was extensive: New York City, Paris before 1860, and London and Paris after the American Civil War (1877-1878). When the Civil War broke out he was at twenty-seven a dedicated supporter of the South; he joined the Richmond Howitzers in the Army of Northern Virginia, and eventually reached an officer’s rank in the engineering corps. During the four years of war service he spent most of his spare time drawing and painting his fellow soldiers. He thus provided valuable visual records of the American Civil War from the perspective of a Southerner.

After the armistice of 1865, the former Lieutenant pursued a career in painting and book illustration, and even earned commissions as a sculptor. His most significant periodical illustration is a humorous childhood piece, Caught in the Act, in Harper's Bazar (Vol. VIII): 22 May 1875. His most significant commission as a monumental sculptor was The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, in Richmond, Virginia. Among the magazines for which he worked are Harper's Weekly and Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. His style and taste were well suited to his best known book illustrations, those which he completed for Henry Watterson's Oddities in Southern Life and Character. He was just one of five prominent illustrators whom Harper & Co. commissioned to work on the seven New York volumes of the Household Edition of the 1870s, Some of his work is still accessible, including the painting Boys Catching Rabbits and Caught in the Act from Harper's Bazaar (Vol. VIII: 22 May 22 1875).

The Harper and Brothers' version of the Household Edition was just sixteen volumes (instead of the twenty-two-volume set issued in London by Chapman and Hall), and came out between 1872 and 1877. Those volumes that were illustrated by the five internationally-known American artists are as follows:

Fifty-two Illustrations for Dickens's Dombey and Son (1873)

Related Material, including Other Illustrated Editions of Dombey and Son (1846-1924)


Artist Biography & Facts: William Sheppard. Ask Art.

Cutshaw, Wilfred (designer) and W. L. Sheppard (sculptor). Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument. Libby Hill Park, Richmond, VA. 1887-1894. The Historical Marker Database.

Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by W. L. Sheppard. The Household Edition. 18 vols. New York: Harper & Co., 1873. [This is the second of nine volumes in the exclusively American edition.]

Grant, Marena Rollins. William Ludwell Sheppard; a retrospective exhibition of his works, December, 1969. Richmond, VA: The Valentine Museum.

_____. William Ludwell Sheppard, artist-illustrator. Master's thesis. Richmond, VA: The University of Virgina, 1970.

"Lieu. William Ludwell Sheppard." Find a Grave. [Buried Mar. 28, 1912]

McCarthy Carlton. Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865. Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Pyrnelle, Louise Clarke, and William Ludwell Sheppard (illustrator). Diddie, Dumps, and Tot; or, Plantation child-life New York: Harper & Bros. 1910.

Sheppard, William Ludlow. Caught in the Act. Harper's Bazar. Vol. VIII.

_____. A Picnic in the Country. Harper's Weekly. 1867.

_____. A Spring Scene near Richmond, Virginia. Harper's Weekly, 21 May 1870, p. 321.

"Sheppard, William Ludwell 1833-1912." OCLC WorldCat Identities.

Created 18 December 2021