Clayton Henri Staples was born is Osceola, Wisconsin. Mr. Staples served in the Camouflage Division of the United States Navy as a station artist during World War I. Later he undertook formal schooling at the Chicago Art Institute, graduating with honors. He taught at the institution before accepting the position as director of art at Illinois State Normal University, a post he held for the next four years. Then in 1930, after extensive travel abroad, he came to Wichita, Kansas and was appointed director of art at Wichita State University.
In the life of any institution there are individuals who play a major role in its development. Clayton Staples was such a person for Wichita State University. Arriving at a time when material resources were meager and enrollments small, he set about building a tradition in the visual arts that has subsequently brought national attention to the Wichita community. Described by associates and friends as a gifted artist, an inspiring teacher, an able administrator and a superb natural leader, Clayton Staples brought distinction and excellence into the lives of many. After twenty years at Wichita State University, Staples retired and moved to Cuchara, Colorado where he established the Cuchara School of Art on the Cucharas River in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of southern Colorado. His favorite subjects were landscapes of the scenic area. Eleven years later, he and wife, Esther, moved to Colorado Springs where he remained until his death.
Clayton Staples was known throughout the United States as a painter of landscape, seascape and still life in the naturalist tradition. He painted spectacular seascapes and harbor scenes from his summers spent in Gloucester, Massachusetts. As a representational artist, he selected vistas of landscape in the West in representing beauty of color, light, form and order.
His wife, Esther, said he did his best mountain winter scenes at the seashore and his best boating scenes while snowbound on the Cucharas. In the course of his career he devoted long hours to travel, sketching and finishing his work with sound craftsmanship.