William Wheeler Bio

William Wheeler:    1940-2018

William Wheeler is an artist known as much for his plein air paintings of Sonoma and the greater Bay Area as his commune and off-the-grid living.  Born in Norwalk Connecticut, Wheeler studied at Yale in the early 1960s.  He then moved west and attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he was one of Richard Diebenkorn’s last students, and became involved in the Bay Area’s counterculture and back to the land movements.

Wheeler bought land near Occidental he named “Sheep Ridge” sometimes also called Wheeler Ranch.  He built his own home and lived with no electricity.  Wheeler befriended members of the Morning Star Commune and after it was shut down in the late 1960s he opened up his nearby land to them creating a communal space for many people and make-shift buildings. In 1973, his commune was shut down as police ordered everyone off and the buildings were bulldozed and burned.

Long interested in painting landscapes, Wheeler reported being inspired by his Aunt, a muralist painter who his family visited during summers.  He favored oil painting as his favorite medium, and returned to the same locations many times, saying in 2001 “I keep going back to such areas, like renewing old friendships, not to copy or duplicate, but rather to explore deeper into these favorite places.” 

Wheeler most enjoyed painting outside and in the 1980s was part of the “Sonoma Four” group of “plein air painters” (Bill Wheeler, Jack Stuppin, Tony King, Bill Morehouse).  Wheeler preferred the immediacy of plein air painting, comparing it to jazz improvisation, over more repetitive and tedious studio work.  Wheeler’s rich and wild landscapes preserve his vision of Northern California in many private homes and museum collections such as the Crocker Art Museum, Oakland Museum, Century Association in NY and Yale University Art Gallery.  He exhibited at the Bradford Gallery, J. Noblett Gallery, John Berggruen Gallery and was represented by the George Krevsky Gallery.

BORN      1940 Norwalk, Connecticut

DIED        2018 near Occidental, California


1962          B.A., Yale University, New Haven, CT

                  Studied with Sy Silliman, Peter Bailey, Bernard Chaet and Gabor Peterdi

1963          San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA

                  Studied under Richard Diebenkorn, James Weeks, Julius Hatovsky, Nathan Oliveira

                  and Donald Weygandt


2011          California Dreaming, Hønseriet Galleri, Hvitsen, Norway

2004          Carrington Stop & Recent Plein Air Paintings, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2001          Favorite Places, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1999          Town & Country, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1998          Bolinas Gallery, Bolinas, CA

1996          Bradford Gallery, San Anselmo, CA

                  The Masika Gallery, Seattle, WA

1995          Bradford Gallery, San Anselmo, CA

                  So Fo Gallery, Santa Rosa, CA

                  King Heller Gallery, Freestone, CA

1992          Jessica Framer Gallery, Occidental, CA

1989          University Club, San Francisco, CA

1988          Canesa Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1965          Buzz Gallery, San Francisco, CA


2004          Botany 12, Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa, CA

                  See California Now, Gallery C, Hermosa Beach, CA

2002          Northwest Plein Aire, Augen Gallery, Portland, OR

2001          Play Ball!. George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2000          The California Landscape, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

                  Intimate Interiors: Scenes from Private Life, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1999          By-the-Sea, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

                  Sonoma State University, Sonoma, CA

1998          Bits & Pieces, George Krevsky Gallery, San Francisco, CA

                  Modern Romantics, George Krevsky Galley, San Francisco, CA

                  Cross Country Tour, Century Club, New York, NY

1997          Offshore:  Paintings of the Farallones, California Academy of Sciences,

                  San Francisco, CA

                  The Joys of Summer, George Krevsky Fine Art, San Francisco, CA

1995          George Krevsky Fine Art, San Francisco, CA

1993          Century Association, New York, NY

                  Patricia Sweetow Gallery, Napa, CA

1992          John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA

                  Jessica Framer Gallery, Occidental, CA

1991          J. Noblett Gallery, Boyes Hot Springs, CA

                  Dominican College, San Rafael, CA

1990-95     Fence Show, Sebastopol, CA


Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH

Century Association, NYC, NY

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA

M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA

The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA

San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA

Yale University Art Museum, New Haven, CT