A painter and etcher in a diverse range of styles, William Henry Clapp would earn a prominent reputation in both Canada and the United States.
He had been born in Montreal to American parents, and studied at the Montreal Art Association School before heading to Paris. There he studied at several academies, including Belarossi, Julian and Grande Chaumiere, which allowed him to experience a wide range of students and emerging styles.
He was influenced by Claude Monet, Picasso, Cezanne and Gauguin, but his Academic training was at odds with these new artists. It was the Impressionists; however that were his most preferred group, and it was their brushwork and palette that had the most lasting effect on his work.
He returned to Canada in 1912 and entered into the Montreal "avant garde" art scene. He participated in the Thirtieth Spring Exhibition of the Art Association of Montreal, which was similar to the Armory Show in New York that same year.
A move to Cuba, along with his family, in 1915 inserted tropical colors and lighting into his work, but by 1918 Clapp had returned to the Oakland area of California where he became the Director of the Oakland Art Gallery for the next thirty years. Here he worked to foster and forward modern art. He was deeply associated with the "Society of the Six" a modernist group of painters in the San Francisco area, and arranged their exhibitions from 1923 to 1928.
Throughout his career he continued to paint, and his early Impressionism took on strong elements of Pointillism, similar to the work of Seurat. He exhibited frequently, through 1937. His works are in the collections of several large museums, including the Canadian National Gallery and the Oakland Museum.