CAREER AS AN ARTIST
Sprague first began showing his paintings that were the basis of his master’s thesis in Richmond, Virginia, at the Eric Schindler Gallery. His first exhibited paintings were of his first wife, Barbara, and he later expanded into cityscapes and landscapes. He also began painting horse racing scenes. After he moved to Panama, he began incorporating paintings of the country and people of Panama.
This early work was met with critical praise. F.D. Cossitt noted, “His drawings, and principally his little oil paintings of a solitary female in a domestic setting are perfect jewels in the spirit of Vermeer.”
Sprague continued to paint in Panama during the 1970’s, showing with the Etcetera Gallery and then with ArteConsult under the direction of Carmen Carrizo Aleman. By 1985, he had become one of the leading artists in Panama. His artwork subjects included the pollera and montuna traditional dances, fishermen, and street vendors.
In addition, Sprague undertook a series of drawings and painting of the Panama Canal. He produced a total of 29 paintings and drawings for the Panama Canal Company, including depictions the overhaul of two of the sets of Canal locks. Most of these paintings and drawings are on permanent display at the Panama Canal Administration Building in Balboa Heights, Panama.
In 1987, encouraged by General Fred Woerner, Commander in Chief of the Southern Command, US Army, Sprague began a series of paintings of U.S. army training maneuvers in Panama. He accompanied troops on jungle training exercises and in parachute jumps. This resulted in a series of 10 paintings, nine of which were presented to the US Army at a ceremony in the Pentagon in 1988. The following year, the United States invaded Panama to remove the notorious dictator Manuel Noriega, and in January 1990 Sprague was invited to chronicle the activities of “Operation Just Cause.” This resulted in 10 paintings, which were presented to the U.S. Army at a ceremony in Fort McNair.
In 1978 Sprague traveled to Italy to study with the renowned sculptor, Harry Jackson. Upon returning to Panama, he constructed a bronze foundry, which was the only art foundry in existence in that country. He cast a number of bronzes that echoed the themes of his paintings. Upon moving to Yorktown, Virginia, in 1992, he created another bronze foundry and continued casting. In Fall of 2017, Sprague relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana and donated his foundry equipment to an organization working to establish a working foundation in the country of Panama.