Clarence E. Shepard was born in Cortland, New York and grew up in Clay Center, Kansas. He began his study of architecture at the University of Berkeley in the 1890s and then moved to Chicago to work in the studio of Frank Lloyd Wright. After the birth of his daughter, Shepard moved his family to Kansas City where he practiced architecture. In his career as an architect, he designed over six hundred homes in Kansas City, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Minneapolis as well as churches.
In addition to being an architect, Shepard was also fond of the arts with painting and Native American basketry his primary focus. To earn an income while going to school, he traveled to California and purchased baskets for the Field Museum. It is his paintings that are of interest in the library collection.
"Abstract Tree" is a very good example of Shepard's subject matter. Landscapes, particularly autumn scenes, play the central role in many of his works. This painting depicts a row of trees running alongside a river. Architecture never far away, Shepard includes a triple arched bridge on the horizon giving a place for the river to flow. He uses russet tones to accent the feeling of autumn with hues and shades of blue, yellow, green, red, and purple. The painting is signed in red paint along the lower left side and dated 1942, just seven years before his death.