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William Spratling (1900-1967)

Art

Birth Place: Songyea, NY USA

Biography:

Who was silversmith William Spratling?

William Spratling was a silver designer, an artist, and businessman who is best known for discovering, teaching, and employing several notable Mexican Silversmiths via his Taxco workshop. Spratling’s own designs helped to push Mexican silver into the 20th century, pulling from both modernist aesthetics as well as pre-Columbian pieces of art. Spratling was a true renaissance man, a celebrated author, successful at business, and a dedicated teacher. His belief that Mexican art was on par with anything coming out of Europe helped to popularize the silversmith craft with Hollywood and the literary class.

Spratling began employing artisans in the 1930s, at its peak around 500 which produced luxury goods that were exported to the United States. Spratling Silver was world renowned and sold by such luxurious retailers as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Eventually, that company (Las Delicias) was sold to an investor and driven into bankruptcy, forcing Spratling to reinvent himself with the Taxco Workshop in 1952. These would be some of the most fruitful years of his life, with several of his best designs coming in the decade before his death in 1967.

What kind of art did William Spratling make?

William Spratling was a silversmith who designed jewelry, tableware, and miscellaneous pieces. His work was heavily inspired by the pre-Columbian artifacts found in Mexico during his time there. Spratling was a visionary of his time, not only did he seek inspiration from the Mexican culture that surrounded him, but he also employed many Mexican employees as craftsman -- both at his Taller de Las Delicias and later at his Taxco workshop. Spratling’s work was often compared to the murals of Diego Rivera, whose work Spratling also admired. His pieces and influence became so felt in the United States and Mexico that he earned the nickname the “Father of Mexican Silver”

How did silversmith William Spratling get started?

William Spratling was born in 1900, in the tiny town of Sonyea, New York. The son of an epileptologist, both Spratling’s mother and sister died at a young age, forcing the boy to move to his father’s childhood home in Auburn, Alabama. Spratling was a smart boy, graduating from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now known as Auburn University) with a degree in architecture. He accepted a position as an instructor in the architecture department immediately after graduating, then moved to Tulane’s School of Architecture a few years after.

During his time in New Orleans, he became a member of the Arts and Crafts Club and taught a few classes at the New Orleans Art School. During the summer is when Spratling truly got his important work done, he spent his time traveling to Mexico where he taught at the University of Mexico’s Summer School. This put him in contact with several artists in the Taxco area, which eventually led to Spratling’s decision to restart the Mexican silversmithing industry with Taller de Las Delicias.

How much are William Spratling silver pieces worth?

William Spratling is one of the most influential silversmiths of his era and as such his work commands commensurate value. While some pieces can be had for as little as a few hundred dollars many can be worth five figures. Heritage Auction has a large history with Spratling pieces, with over 100 sold items in our past sales. The most ever paid at auction for a William Spratling piece is $27,500 for a Forty-Two Piece Amarres Pattern Mexican Hammered Silver Flatware Service (1940) which sold on May 8th-10th, 2014.

Where to buy William Spratling pieces for sale?

See works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value William Spratling art?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services Department.


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