A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, artist William Howard “Will” Shuster, Jr. was born in 1893 and served in the army during World War I, during which he was gassed. After developing tuberculosis, Shuster moved to the arid climate of New Mexico in order to restore his health, and he became involved in the small but vibrant arts community of Santa Fe. At the time, New Mexico was known by many American artists, among them noted painter and teacher John Sloan, who was a friend of Will Shuster.
After moving to Santa Fe, Shuster became a member of an artist’s group known as Los Cinco Pintores (“The Five Painters”), who showed their work collectively throughout New Mexico and the U.S. In 1924, Shuster built and burned the first Zozobra (Old Man Gloom), a fully-functioning marionette symbolizing the gloom of the passing year, now burned in effigy annually as a lead up to the Santa Fe Fiesta. In 1952, Shuster created El Toro, a symbol of the Santa Fe Rodeo, which is still paraded annually as part of the festivities.