Painting by Joseph Sheppard

“The Fighter” – By Sheppard

Chosen by the Academy’s Art Committee in June of this year, Joseph Sheppard will be recognized during the 31st Annual Academy Awards of Sport program, which has a theme of, “The Artist and the Athlete.” The event, which is open free to the public, will be held on Thursday, November 5 at 5:30 pm, at the Academy’s campus in Daphne, Ala.

The Sport Artist of the Year Award is presented to an individual who captures the spirit and life of sport so that future generations can relive the drama of today’s competition. The recipient may use a variety of art media including film, video, or sculpture to depict the breadth and scope of both the agony and the ecstasy of sport.

Sheppard, born in Owing Mills, Maryland, in 1930, is an award-winning artist, painter, and sculptor. He first became interested in depicting sports, especially boxing, after he completed a cover for Sports Illustrated featuring Jack Dempsey. Sheppard was a fighter himself, as he trained in Mr. Mack’s Lewis Boxing Gym in Baltimore and worked out with several other fighters, carrying with him a broken nose and rib to show for his efforts.

When he was just 18-years-old, Sheppard began his training at the Maryland Institute of Art (MIA) under Jacques Maroger, the former technical director of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Just one year after his finished his studies at MIA, he was awarded the Guggenheim Traveling Fellowship to Florence, Italy, in 1957. His interest in sport and passion for art make it no surprise that one of his favorite subjects to paint or sculpt is people in sports.

“For my work to have meaning in today’s world my subject matter has to be contemporary,” he said. “Sport is one of the subjects that is an ideal venue.”

He has spent more than six decades documenting life through realist paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Most recently, Sheppard’s art was exhibited at his museum, The Leroy Merritt Art Center for the Work of Joseph Sheppard, at the University of Maryland University College. The exhibition, “Beast and Burden,” featured large-scale paintings – measuring at least one meter in each direction – that range from still lifes and landscapes to narratives and social commentaries.

Sheppard not only paints and sculpts, he has also written several books on art. His book How to Paint Like the Old Master is one of his most popular books. Each chapter is devoted to a different Old Master – Dürer, Titian, Veronese, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Hals, Rubens, and Rembrandt – and is divided into two sections that simplify the processes taken by the “Old Masters.”

Since his first award over 50 years ago, Sheppard has been honored with numerous prestigious awards from institutions like the Allied Artists of America and National Sculpture Society. The Academy has now been added to that ever-growing list of accomplishments.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303 or visit