Vasco Urbano Loureiro

It was 1910, in a Livermore much different from today, when a 28 year old artist found himself in the Hub Saloon drawing caricatures and portraits of local patrons throughout the town. His name was Vasco Urbano Loureiro.

Early Life

Son to Maria Therese Huybers, a native Tasmanian, and Artur Loureiro, a classically trained Portuguese painter, Vasco was born in Lambeth, England (now part of London) on October 27th 1882. A few years after his birth, Vasco and his family quickly moved to Melbourne Australia in 1884 when a warmer climate became essential for his father’s health. His father joined the Victorian Artists’ Society and enjoyed popularity on the art scene. His mother was a newspaper critic in Australia and also contributed to regular columns to the paper’s woman’s page. The family lived in the suburb of Kew in a large two-story brick combination home and studio. Vasco was a day student from grades seven to 12 at Xavier College, a Roman Catholic school for boys. He graduated with honors in French and went on to study drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria Schools from 1901 to 1905. In 1905 Vasco exhibited postcard designs and pen and ink sketches in several shows, two in South Yarra and another in Melbourne. After the success of the shows Vasco moved to Sydney where he drew postcards and caricatures for passengers on the harbor ferries at a shilling a sketch. This is when he decided to travel around the world on ships, sketching for his living as he went.


He began by sailing to Tasmania and New Guinea, then to Africa and to England. With England as his base, he took side trips to Paris, Dublin and Edinburgh. He rode on steamers between England and the Isle of Man. Vasco sailed in late September from Liverpool to New York City on a steamer and began traveling down the East Coast to Florida. From Florida he made his way to Panama and by May 1909 he had reached San Francisco.The Call, a San Francisco Newspaper of the time noted, “Vasco Loureiro, a brilliant young English sketch artist, is in San Francisco taking mental snapshots of the city. Loureiro is an artist of considerable merit and has traveled the world over in quest of data which he will use in compiling a book to be illustrated with his own sketches.” The word “Vasco” means “Basque,” and meanwhile in Livermore, Vasco Road had been named after a nearby settlement. Speculation suggests perhaps the artist was doing sketches in San Francisco when someone from Livermore asked him about the name of the road and he became curious. Vasco’s impressive travels and wandering spirit have become the inspiration behind our newest Vasco Urabno, “Passport Series” label | Click here for more.

Livermore & The Hub

Once arriving in Livermore, Vasco met Fred Sangmaster and Norm McLeod, the owners of the Hub Salon. Vasco drew their portraits and became a fixture in the Salon charging 50 cents to a dollar per sketch. Apparently, Fred never paid for his caricature, because Vasco labeled it “O.U. Fred,” which was a habit of his when patrons failed to pay. On March 26, 1910, the local Livermore newspaper, the Herald, announced “The Hub saloon has an art exhibit which attracts a great deal of attention. It is a gallery of local celebrities executed in crayon by Vasco Loureiro. The likenesses of most of them are excellent.” Vasco was only in Livermore for a short while before sailing up to the Puget Sound, riding on ferries serving Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver, but drew more than 40+ caricatures in the Livermore area. The caricatures are now the feature of our  Vasco Urbano labels | Click here for more.

World War I

By 1916, Vasco had returned to Australia, was deeply involved with Great Britain in World War I. He changed his name to Louis Vasco and married Gwendolyn Sargent. After the battle of Gallipoli, where 7,594 Australians died, Vasco joined the army, saying on his enlistment forms that he was a caricaturist and draftsman. He sailed to England, was trained, and served as an engineer on the western front in France. He laid mines, removed mines, constructed buildings, dug tunnels under enemy lines, laid barbed wire, and conducted other deadly dangerous tasks until 25 May 1918 when he was admitted to a field hospital with a spinal cord injury. Vasco Loureiro died Aug. 3, 1918, in a hospital in England as a result from wounds, at the age of 35. His drawing books, pencils, paint boxes and other art supplies, were sent to his widow in Australia. One paint box had a hole in it from stopping shrapnel when his company was being shelled. Today, much of his artwork from the war now hangs in museums including the Museum of New South Wales and the Australian Was Memorial and his name in located at panel 25 in the commemorative are at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia. His obituary in the Melbourne Herald on 9 August 1918 included this summary: “. . . His later sketches approached almost perfection in the medium which he employed.  . . .  Bohemian in his tendencies, he was a rover by nature. Much of his work was done from day to day, and on the spur of the moment, his chance sitters being passengers on the bay [or ocean] steamers to whom he sold the output of his pen.”