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Robert Rishell

Birth place or City of origin: Oakland
State of origin: CA
Last known City: Oakland
Last known State: CA
Start/Birth date: 1917
Death/End date: 1976

Born in Oakland, CA on Feb. 14, 1917. Rishell graduated from Fremont High School where he was awarded an art scholarship to study at the CCAC (1938). At that school he was greatly influenced by Xavier Martinez. After serving in the U.S. Navy in WWII, he obtained his teaching credentials at UC Berkeley. His work includes murals, landscapes, portraits and scenes of the Indian country of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. A lifelong resident of Oakland, Rishell died on June 29, 1976. His father was the mayor of Oakland from 1949-61.

Member: SWA; Nat'l Academy of Western Artists; Oakland Citizen Art Council; Bohemian Club. Exhibitions: Society for Sanity in Art, CPLH, 1945; SF Bay area. Awards: dozens at de Young Museum; California State Fairs. In: California State Capital (Ronald Reagan); Oakland Public Library (portrait of his father); World Trade Center, SF (mural); Oakland Museum (mural); Bank of California, Oakland (mural); Palm Springs Desert Museum; Nat'l Cowboy Hall of Fame (Gene Autry); Treasure Island Naval Base; West Point Museum; Naval Academy Museum (Annapolis); Indianapolis Museum; UC Berkeley; University of Chicago; Bohemian Club.


Robert Clifford Rishell lived in the Oakland, CA hills with his wife and only daughter, and was affiliated with the Oakland Museum. His daughter was a freelance biological illustrator until 1988, when she became an elementary school art teacher.

He was the son of former Oakland mayor Clifford E Rishell. He was a graduate of the California College of Arts and Crafts (B.A. and M.A.) and received adult school teaching credentials from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a member of the Society of Western artists. He studied under Xavier Martinez, who studied under John Singer Sargent.

Rishell organized the first showing of the Society of Western Artists at the California Garden and Home Exposition (then the California Spring Garden Show) in 1949 (Oakland Tribune 5/12/68). He was instrumental in starting the Oakland Museum, and remained an active participant until he died. He also painted several of the background dioramas in the Natural Science area of the museum. The museum owns several of his paintings, which go on display periodically.

A lifelong resident of Oakland, California, Robert Rishell was a graduate of California College of Arts and Crafts and a member of the Society of Western artists. He was instrumental in starting the Oakland Museum, and remained an active participant until he died in 1976.

In 1974, Rishell was commissioned by the State of California to paint the official gubernatorial portrait of Governor Ronald Reagan, which is currently on display at the California State Capital Museum in Sacramento, CA. According to the Oakland Tribune, March 20, 1969, Barry Goldwater purchased two Rishell paintings from a show held in a Palm Springs Gallery.

Rishell died in 1976 after a five to six-year bout with multiple myeloma. According to Rishell's widow, Dorothy, his works are owned by Bechtel, Dupont, Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.

Rishell's In the Beginning was selected as the very first Christmas card, made available to the public, by the Easter Seal Society of Alameda County in 1966. Originally sold by Rishell in 1964 at the Society for Western Artists annual show for $500 to the late Mr. and Mrs. William Fleming, in 1985, was estimated by Paul Bingham of Westview Gallery, San Jose, CA at $10,000 to $17,000.

Desert Nomad was the popular choice award at the 1967 Jack London Art Festival, receiving the most votes from 30,000 visitors at the show.

Grey Whiskers won the prize at the 1968 Jack London Art Festival.

In 1971, Rishell won top honors at the Society of Western Artists 29th Annual at the M H de Young Museum with his portrait of Maurice Logan, Eastbay artist. (Oakland Tribune, 5/8/71)

Biography courtesy of


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