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Oral history interview with Ernest Lenshaw, 1964 May 19

Lenshaw, Ernest, 1892-



Collection Information

Size: 29 Pages, Transcript

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 1 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hr., 1 min. Sound quality is good, but the repair of frequent splices has caused lost words and broken sentences throughout the interview.

Summary: An interview of Ernest Lenshaw conducted 1964 May 19, by Mary McChesney, for the Archives of American Art.
Interview was conducted at the artist's home in San Francisco, Calif.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ernest Lenshaw (1892- ) was a muralist in San Francisco, Calif.


This interview conducted as part of the Archives of American Art's New Deal and the Arts project, which includes over 400 interviews of artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Language Note

English .



The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Ernest Lenshaw on May 19, 1964. The interview took place in San Francisco, CA, and was conducted by Mary McChesney for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


ERNEST LENSHAW: You ask the questions. I don't know what you want.

MARY MCCHESNEY: This is Mary Fuller McChesney interviewing Ernest Lenshaw at his home, 1244 19th Street in San Francisco. The date is May 19, 1964. Mr. Lenshaw, first could you give me some background information about yourself? Where were you born and what year?


MARY MCCHESNEY: What city in Denmark?




MARY MCCHESNEY: And what year?

ERNEST LENSHAW: On the west coast of Denmark just across from England.

MARY MCCHESNEY: What year was that?


MARY MCCHESNEY: When did you come to the United States?


MARY MCCHESNEY: Could you tell me about your early art training? Did you go to art school?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Sort of, yes. I did.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Where was that?




MARY MCCHESNEY: When did you first get on the WPA art project?


MARY MCCHESNEY: How did that come about and where did you first begin working?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I worked first down at the Acquatic Park with Hilaire Hiler.

MARY MCCHESNEY: He was doing the large mural.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, in the Acquatic Park.

MARY MCCHESNEY: What kind of job did you have with him?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I was . . . he had a lot of modern shapes of undersea waves. The theme of this particular mural was Atlantis

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: That was all sea forms.

ERNEST LENSHAW: The Lost Atlantis, yeh, and whales and forms. So, I was going over all the waves which were all sort of modern in different colors of blues and greens, you know. We had about thirty different colors of waves which were sort of cutting across one another and shafts of light coming down through the whole mess . . . ha ha . . . So, that was one of the jobs I was doing.

MARY MCCHESNEY: You actually painted the waves?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, I made up the colors and painted them. They were already painted but there were corrections being made constantly so that the whole thing would come out the same.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Wasn't that glazed over too, with transparent colors?

ERNEST LENSHAW: That was another thing. He had all these shapes filled with fish and he had some what you call snails or some other kind of forms, sand, and I was glazing in all these different modern shapes that he drew up. That was another job I did. And . . . what else did I do?

MARY MCCHESNEY: What type of paint did you use?

ERNEST LENSHAW: It was regular standard art colors . . . Winsor-Newton.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Regular artists oils.

MARY MCCHESNEY: This large mural was done on canvas and was placed on the wall?


MARY MCCHESNEY: How was it mounted to the wall?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, it was mounted already before we started, before we painted it. It was already on the wall.

MARY MCCHESNEY: How far along was the mural when you went to work there? You said part of it was already done.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, some of it was done. Well, I don't know just what to say. Whether it was half done or one third done, I don't know, but it was partly done when I went to work.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Who were the other people working with you?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, there was a Russian girl named Anna Medalie whom I know from . . . I worked with her before in a furniture shop

MARY MCCHESNEY: But not on a WPA project?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, at that time then I worked with her on this particular project.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The furniture shop was before you got on the project?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, you know it was in between, a long time ago, you know, many years ago . . . but anyway she was a flower painter.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I remember that name.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh. Anna Medalie. And when I went to Mexico, I was just about a month behind her. I went to Mexico in 1952 and wherever I went, we were talking about painters and what not and people said, "Do you know Ann Medalie?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, she'd just been here about a month ago or two months ago." I was in Guadalahara and Taxco, Acapulco and I don't know, Mexico City. I mean Sargent Johnson was also talking about her. He was acquainted with her at the same time.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We were there in 1952.

ERNEST LENSHAW: You were there in ‘52, so was I. My son was living in Mexico City. He was working in Mexico City.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We stayed in Ajijic and San Miguel Allende.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Ajijic! I was out there.


ERNEST LENSHAW: Sure, we stayed there. We spent . . . I bet we spent two or three months in Guadalahara. We had some friends there. We made a lot of friends. We stayed at the Navy Club, you know the Navy Club? It was a motel. It had a Navy ship in the middle and a swimming pool in the front of it. I used to go swimming every day, even Christmas Day.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Present also is Robert McChesney who was on the WPA project in San Francisco as well. Can you remember any other people who were on the Acquatic Park project with you?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, Saccaro was on the project.



MARY MCCHESNEY: Was this on the Hiler job?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: He wasn't on the Hiler job?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, I don't think so. I can't remember now. Jose Ramis was on the job and oh, I don't know. There was a whole flock of them. I just can't remember all.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Phyllis Zakheim was on the Hiler job.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Phyllis Zakheim, was she working on the Hilaire Hiler project?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, yes, that's right.

MARY MCCHESNEY: And Sargent Johnson, the sculptor, worked on it too.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, he was working on the tile that was put in front of the balcony out there, that tile out there, and he had some fella from Egypt or some darn place . . . an Arabian fella was helping him. And Peter Fredrickson was there. Another thing we were working on was that Colorama or whatever he called that thing in there, ya, I worked on that crazy thing. I just put all these crazy colors around there.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It was sort of a color chart, wasn't it?

ERNEST LENSHAW: That was a color chart and on the walls and all that sort of stuff. I worked there with Peter Fredrickson.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Wasn't that Hiler's own color theory.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, that was his, his color scheme. Yes, sure.

MARY MCCHESNEY: It was on the ceiling of one of the rooms.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, there was some on the ceiling and there was something on the wall. He had greys, he had the twelve steps or whatever it was, he had coming up the wall. You know, the values, twelve values going up the wall and on the ceiling he had the colors and he had a center piece there. I forget now exactly what . . . I think it is still there and it's, I think it's cracking rather badly. I forget now what it was.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The last time I saw it, it didn't look bad.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Was that oil on canvas as well?


MARY MCCHESNEY: And did you mix the colors for this then?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, Peter Fredrickson was in charge of that. But I made the color for the mural on the Federal building.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Yes. Well, let's finish up with the Acquatic Park.


MARY MCCHESNEY: Mr. Hilaire Hiler was out there and was supervising he project when you worked for him. Can you tell us something about him? What kind of person he was and how he was to work with?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, he was very good to work with. I have no complaints as far as that goes. Well, you know, probably, as much as I do about him. He is quite a well known authority on color and such things. I think he has several books out on that stuff.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Yeh, he's quite famous for it, color theories.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Color theories, yes.

MARY MCCHESNEY: He has also designed a color chart.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes. I would think he has.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, he has written two or three volumes, I believe it is.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The book devotes itself enirely to color. He has all the tone values, and then he has along with that a little box, you know, with all these color chips. Every interior decorator uses them.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Luke Gibney worked on that project too.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Acquatic Park?


MARY MCCHESNEY: What was he doing out there?

ERNEST LENSHAW: He was working some place up stairs where they were doing some of these modern things.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Modern things?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, they were sort of nautical things; everything was nautical. I don't mean naughty but nautical.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Nautical, right, ha ha.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, they were modern to the extent that they were designed in a rather classical way, no, not that. Oh, I'll think of the term later maybe.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, it was kind of in modern treatment, wouldn't you say?


MARY MCCHESNEY: So Luke Gibney was working as a painting assistant to Hilaire Hiler at that time.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, well, there was – oh, gosh – there must have been about twenty people working on that project, at least. But, I can't remember them . . . I know them when I see them but I can't remember their names.

MARY MCCHESNEY: It's been a long time.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, yeh, and some of them are gone, you know, forever and Luk is gone and there was a tall fella with large set, Peter Fredrickson is gone, that fella is gone, Luke Gibney is gone.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Pete Fredrickson is dead?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Did he die in Los Angeles?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, somewheres down there.

MARY MCCHESNEY: How long did you work out there on the Acquatic Park Project?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I don't know. Can't remember.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Was it six months or a year?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, not that long. No, because pretty soon we were doing other things. We went over to the Fair. What are you trying to do?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I'm going to see if pops on the mike when you set the glass down.



ERNEST LENSHAW: No, but then we had, then Volz came and he wanted me to come out o the Fair and make the colors. So I mean . . . well, from there I think I went up to the sate college and Karl Baumann! Do you remember Karl Baumann?


ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, Karl Baumann was making a lot of lettering and I was putting gold leaf on it and I had some big arches on there to do.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Where was this?

ERNEST LENSHAW: In the state college, which is now a university extension, but they have painted it all out, you know. Some guy was doing a lot of work on that entranceway, you know, there in the corner. It had our murals over it and over the doors they had big arches and it had, oh . . . scientists, names of scientists and poets and writers and their names were, you know, like a big band going all the way over, around and it had a date on it and my job was to put the gold leaf on it. Really, when I started out, I was a gold leaf man. That's what I was doing.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Didn't Hillaire use gold leaf too?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh yes, yes. A lot of these fishes, we used gold leaf down there but . . . I don't think I did anything. I think Ann Medalie did all of the fish with the gold leaf on them. Then they were, you know, painted in and glazed over.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: And there was some silver too.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh. Gold and silver and then glazed in various colors and all that sort of suff but I didn't work on that. Ann Medalie did that kind of work. Then I worked here and I worked there and then I think I did some smaller mural things. I think it was out in the Sunnyvale Housing Project. Then I went over to the Fair and made up all the colors for the mural in front.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You didn't work down on First Street there in the studios?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: . . . Before you went over to the Fair?

MARY MCCHESNEY: Those small murals that you did, did you design them yourself or did somebody else?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, they were somebody else's design.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Had you had any of your training in gold leaf work before you went to work at State College?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, God, yes. I've done acres and acres of that stuff. In fact, I'll dig it up for you in case you're interested. They sent up from Los Angeles for me to help them. They didn't have anybody down there. I mean, so I wrote sort of a thesis on laying gold leaf.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Oh, for their information so they didn't have to do it from scratch.

ERNEST LENSHAW: I have it, I'll give it to you.


ERNEST LENSHAW: I have to go down and pick up my wife.

MARY MCCHESNEY: We were just talking about the project over at Acquatic Park where you worked with Hilaire Hiler and then you said that after some time you went over to Treasure Island to work on murals there at the Golden Gate Exhibition.


MARY MCCHESNEY: And who was your supervisor there?


MARY MCCHESNEY: And what kind of work did you do for him?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I had a little shack in front of the mural and it was all filled up with colors and my job was to mix the colors from the sketch and transform it into five gallon lots,
three gallon lots, two gallon lots and whatever was needed.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: And one gallon lots?

ERNEST LENSHAW: One gallon lots . . . Ha ha ha whatever it was. So, that was my job. I was in this shack and I mixed up the colors in batches, you know, in various amounts.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: If I remember correctly, we never left the shack without at least a gallon bucket. It wasn't quite full because we didn't wan to splash it, climbing up that eighty feet.

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, sixty. The mural was sixty feet high.


ERNEST LENSHAW: No, sixty I think. I beg your pardon.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Eighty feet, I've been telling everybody it was eighty feet.

ERNEST LENSHAW: No. Sixty feet high and three-hundred and eighty feet long, the two combined, the two sides combined.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Didn't you raise the buckets up on ropes or anything?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, we pulled them up by ropes.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We'd lower a bucket and yell down there to fill it up.

MARY MCCHESNEY: You want to paint his nose now?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I don't know if this is of any interest to you. The various parts of the mural were marked by . . . ? Did you mark it? Or Tom Hayes?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, I think . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: It was already marked with a number and a color. See, we had four reds, four blues, and four of everything so the various areas had a letter like "R" for red and "Y" for yellow or "B" for blue and a number.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Yellow 1 and yellow 2 and . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, that's right. So, when the fellas got up on the scaffold, it was already marked for them what color they had to put on and the colors were marked too, you see, with a tag.

MARY MCCHESNEY: This was done in regular oil paints?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, it was done with . . . no, it wasn't regular oil paint. It was a special paint made by Sherman and Williams.

MARY MCCHESNEY: But, you didn't grind the color there? You just mixed them.

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, they were already ground. I just made them up to match the colors in the sketch. We had a thirty foot sketch, thirty by something, I forget the height. But, anyway the sketch was 30 feet long.

MARY MCCHESNEY: And this mural was done on plywood panel?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I was done on plywood panels and its height was sixty feet and the length of the two sides combined was 380 feet. What would that make half of it? 180? Two times?

MARY MCCHESNEY: 190, I think.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Alright. Well, that was the length of it and we had a scaffold.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, there was a passage way in between there.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, yes. Sure, there was. As I say, there were two parts but combined it was 380 feet.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It covered the building, the whole building.

ERNEST LENSHAW: I mean the two sides combined and we had it all covered with scaffolds, you know. We had these steel scaffolds.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Those were portable steel scaffolds.

ERNEST LENSHAW: That was afterwards. In the beginning we had the whole thing covered with scaffolds.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The whole thing was covered with scaffolds?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, I'll give you a picture of it.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, this has only one scaffold.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, yeh. Oh, that's from there? Oh. Could we move that thing all the time?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Sure. Every time we wanted to, all the time I worked there. Every time we finished a section . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: You'd move it.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, it was easy to move.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, oh, yeh.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Five of us would get on it and it was rather easy.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I can't remember it now.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Who designed the mural? Herman Volz?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, Herman Volz designed the mural. It was his project.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I would like to correct this. He got the credit for it but it was the whole group.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: No, the whole group over there worked on it. Alden Clark and all these cats worked on it.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, get in your two bits worth, I didn't know anything about who signed it.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Herman got the credit but you remember down at the bottom underneath that great big Herman Volz signature there were a few little names added?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Oh, maybe ten.

ERNEST LENSHAW: They worked on it? . . . well, why don't you put that in.

MRS.LENSHAW: Where does Herman Volz live now?

ERNEST LENSHAW: He lives in Sausalito. He comes up to see us.

MRS.LENSHAW: There is a Herman Volz who is a bar tender at a Cliff House.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: That's not the same one.

ERNEST LENSHAW: That's no him! Ha ha ha ha ha.

MARY MCCHESNEY: What was the subject matter of this mural?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, one side was the conquest of the West by land and the other side was the conquest of the West by sea. These were the two sides.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Do you remember any of the other people who worked on this project?


MARY MCCHESNEY: You mentioned a few when we were looking at the photograph.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Ramis, Jose Ramis, John Saccaro, Tom Hayes and . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: Carlton Williams.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Carlton Williams.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: What are you doing?

MARY MCCHESNEY: We were just talking abut some of the people who were also on the Treasure Island mural project. I think you named Carlton Williams, John Saccaro.


MARY MCCHESNEY: Percy Freer, Robert McChesney . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You take the people you knew. Ha ha . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, so I did.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Were there other people in the photograph that you recognize?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No. I think you already mentioned . . . we mentioned all these people, didn't we?


ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, those are the ones that I knew.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, this picture you've got here, if you read it from left to right, there is yourself and the next character I don't know. Carlton Williams – ?





ERNEST LENSHAW: That's right.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Tatum. What's Tatum's name?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Peer Lowe and I recall the name of Fred whatever his name was and Percy Freer.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It's sort of odd how Percy go on the painters project or the murals project. He used to be an actor. Was he on the theatrical project for awhile?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, he . . . I think so.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You know, during the war he was in Europe, you know, in the European area. I think he went over there when the government was sponsoring these things and put on shows for the GI's.

MARY MCCHESNEY: How long were you working on the Treasure Island project?


MARY MCCHESNEY: For two whole years?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Except . . . ? Yeh, I think so. The first year, we started in ‘38 and we worked all that year until about in the middle . . . about in the middle of the summer. Then we moved into the government project on the inside court and that's where you and I were. That's where I worked with Moe.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The Fine Arts Building. That's where Diego Rivera was working on one side and the Volz mural was on the other side.

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, no, we were working inside the court. There was a court behind the face of he mural where they had the . . . What was in there?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Shops back there.

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, no. That was the . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Designing studio?

ERNEST LENSHAW: That was where we painted murals of the proposed housing project, wasn't that it? President Roosevelt's conception of the modern housing projects or something like that where we painted these houses on the hillside?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Oh, I'd forgotten all about that. Where did we do that?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Inside the court there. You know, remember that court? It was in behind there . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: That's the Federal Building.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, yes, yes, and you and I worked that whole thing all the way around, three sides like . . . on the inside of the panels.

ERNEST LENSHAW: That's right you and I, we spent six months or something like that, you and I together. You and I were the only ones working there.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We didn't spend six months.



ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, how much time?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, there was nothing but rectangles, you know. Didn't Herman design that thing?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, we did. You and I did.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Oh, I think Herman did that. I don't know whether I'd claim it.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Ha ha ha. Well, I don't know.

Mrs. Lenshaw: You told me it had Indian stuff in it. Wasn't it with the Indians and that . . . ?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, this is amazing. I've forgotten all about this and we did it . . . No, Herman . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: Designed it?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Herman designed that thing and it was nothing but rectangles . . . representing buildings and it covered one whole, supposedly, hillside. For some reason they wanted this bare wall covered up and Volz could think of nothing else to do but this and he put you and I on it.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, I remember doing it. You and I were doing this thing together.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Was it also done on plywood panels?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, it was also plywood panels but I forgot the subject.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The subject was housing. It was a housing . . . sort of . . . it must have been one of these projects out there.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, it looks just like one of those things. We did other things too which I can't remember. I mean, my memory is going.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We probably want to forget it. Ha ha ha . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, it wasn't too much really to . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It wasn't a work of art.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It wasn't a design. We just wanted to cover up this wall.

ERNEST LENSHAW: I agree with you.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I came along late in that. Remember our headquarters was in the old river boat. Were you there when we were working off the river boat?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, I'm sure I must have been.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We had paint lockers and everything.

ERNEST LENSHAW: I don't know.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It was the old . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, you mean the ferry boats that were going across the Bay?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The River Queen that ran up and down the River.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We had to paint all lockers up forward in the focsle head.

ERNEST LENSHAW: That's something I don't remember.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Was this boat tied up at the Island, over at Treasure Island?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, when we first started out we went across to the Island on boats, on the ferry boats the first year, and then the second year they got me an old Pierce Arrow and I was taking all the things across the bridge to the project in this old Pierce Arrow. It was one of those free wheeling deals and the thing would freewheel like crazy. In about a week's time I burned out the brakes in it and had to have the darn thing realigned, the brakes realigned.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: On $84 per month it was kind of expensive too.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Ninety four wasn't it that you got? $94.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It was $86 back when I was working over on the Island and then when I got over to the Pickle factory, the top I ever got was $94.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, $94 that was my pay.

MRS.LENSHAW: You probably being a family man made all the difference.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I had two children at that time.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I took a bus over to the Ferry building, I believe. I'd take the bus and ride with Herman Volz.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Afer the bridge was completed. I don't know why we quit riding across on the ferries. I always go down . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: They discontinued the ferries the second year. The first year we all rode the ferries.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: That's the reason.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Then the second year they gave me this old Pierce Arrow and we'd meet the fellas at a certain place and I'd take them all across.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Who gave you a Pierce Arrow?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The Project did?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh. They had it once down there by Sixth and Brannen or Harrison or someplace or was it Fourth and Harrison? They had a garage there with a bunch of cars in it and I rode in a streetcar down to pick up this old Pierce Arrow and we'd meet the fellas there, you see, and I'd take them across the bridge.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I didn't know that.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh yes, I remember that crazy thing.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I remember Herman Volz must have picked us up because we all lived close by anyway.

ERNEST LENSHAW: You know, these early cars they had this freewheeling deal you know, and as soon as you put it in freewheeling, the darn thing wouldn't have any gear. All you had to hold the darn thing back was the brakes. I had to ride on the darn brakes every time I was going downhill, you see. Ha ha ha ha. That was . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: There was something else I wanted to add.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Do you remember any incidents that occurred during your days with the project at Treasure Island?

MRS.LENSHAW: The stealing episode.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, yes! There is a good one for you. That's a dilly. Bufano had made a statue of Saint Francis and it was placed in he California hall and it was made of . . . I think it was a stainless steel job – I can't remember now anymore, but anyway it had the front end of a pair of feet at the bottom which were made out of plaster. It was my job to put gold leaf on the feet. Well, I prepared the feet to put gold leaf on it one day and I sized them with the gold size and I was going to put gold leaf on them the next day. Well, when I came back he next day, the feet were gone. Somebody had swiped the feet.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Ha ha . . . How large were they?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, they were only about natural size, natural size feet.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Probably bigger than life. You mean that the costume of the statue came down to the feet.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Right straight down to the feet.


ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, the feet were protruding, from the robe or whatever you call that thing. He was standing right on a pedestal like.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Were the feet cast or made separately?

ERNEST LENSHAW: They were made separately and they had a little indentation, you know, and the feet were protruding just so much, about half of the foot and I was supposed to put gold leaf on the feet and that was it.

MARY MCCHESNEY: What did Bafuno say?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I don't know what he said. I had no connection with Bufano at all. I guess he blew his top over there. Anyway, they cast a new pair of feet and I put gold leaf on the feet and that was it.

MARY MCCHESNEY: You never recovered the original feet?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, sir. Somebody has that someplace. I don't know where but he got a new pair of feet and I put gold leaf on it and I guess, as far as I know, they stayed the rest of the . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: They probably cemented them on.

ERNEST LENSHAW: . . . durations of the fair.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Was that in the California building?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, ah . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It burnt down? Did it burn up with the California building?

ERNEST LENSHAW: That I could no tell you.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You know that whole building burned down . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, yes, it was burned. This particular statue was standing in an inside courtyard and there was this statue by Bufano of St. Francis and I don't know whether it was destroyed or not.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, another thing ah . . . remember Neininger?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, yes, yes. That I do. What was his job there?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: He was a technical advisory of something, wasn't he?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, something but I don't know exactly what . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Did he work in he shack with you? . . . the paint shack? Or was that before you got over there? I think he must have been mixing the paints before you got there.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Must have. Of course, I was the boss in the shack. That's all I can remember.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I guess it was before you got there.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Maybe he worked on the cartoon for the job. I don't know. He did something but I don't know exactly what his capacity was.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Didn't someone say he was a technical advisor? I don't know whether he was actually . . . He was one of those people who didn't go through relief for some reason.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: He was on strictly as an advisor. You know, it's been pointed out that a lot of these people – not a lot of them but quite a few – got on the project because they couldn't find experts.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I suppose he was a supervisor. What's his name? Allen and what was that other fella's name? You know that was when the project was out on Potrero Avenue at that time when I got on to it.


ERNEST LENSHAW: Gaskin! You know Gaskin is teaching over at the Scaeffer School?


ERNEST LENSHAW: I don't know, if he is now but last year he was, I think.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I think he is.

ERNEST LENSHAW: I don't know if he is now but you know Schaeffer bought that building there up on top of the hill. I used to live right in that same block. When I got on the project, we were living there, the same block.

MRS.LENSHAW: Near the park?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, no, no, on Kansas Street,

MRS.LENSHAW: Oh, oh, oh yes.

ERNEST LENSHAW: You know that was a boys' school there, that big building on the corner that goes way up on the top of the hill?


ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, Schaeffer bought that and Gaskin was a teacher there one year. I don't know whether he is now or not. I haven't seen the schedule or the curriculum or whatever you call it. But, anyway at one time he was. Another time I saw him he was working in an oil station. That's a fact.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: He also had a gallery down in Monterey.

MARY MCCHESNEY: I think you are thinking of Danysh.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Oh, Joe Danysh . . . no, I'm not either. Joe Danysh is in New York, isn't he?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Joe Danysh is where?



ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Oh yes, that's right. It was Joe Danysh.

ERNEST LENSHAW: He's still there?


ERNEST LENSHAW: He was that big fella, wasn't he? Kind of a good looking guy? Joe Danysh? No? Who was he?

MARY MCCHESNEY: He was a supervisor for the 11 Western States, the regional director.


MARY MCCHESNEY: So, he was above Gaskin. Probably didn't have too much to do with the actual people on the project. I imagine.

ERNEST LENSHAW: You know a lot about these things, don't you?

MARY MCCHESNEY: I've been working on it. Ha ha.

ERNEST LENSHAW: You do, you do. You know all the higher-ups, I think.

MARY MCCHESNEY: I haven't met any of them.

MRS.LENSHAW: Tell her about the book on the WPA in this vicinity. Wasn't there a book that was put out?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh yes. A very good one. The writers project wrote that up.

MRS.LENSHAW: The writers project, yeh, that was it.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, they wrote that up very good. That's what you should get a hold of.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Yes, I've seen it.

ERNEST LENSHAW: You've seen it? But you should have it! Because that tells you about all these things that we did. That was a very good job.

MARY MCCHESNEY: It was very good job.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You can't get a hold of it.


MRS.LENSHAW: No, I imagine it's rare.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: What few copies that there are . . . do the libraries have them?

MARY MCCHESNEY: Our library in Petaluma has two copies but it's out of print. It's been out of print for a long time.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, I imagine so.

MARY MCCHESNEY: It's hard to get a hold of a copy to own?



ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, do you need to own it?

MARY MCCHESNEY: No, I got it from he library and read it.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, you have it. I see. Well, what else would you like to know about the project?

MARY MCCHESNEY: After Treasure Island was completed, then did you stay on the project?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh yes. I was four years on the project.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Four years altogether?


MARY MCCHESNEY: What did you do after Treasure Island?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I think I did a mural on my own which . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: Is this the one here?

ERNEST LENSHAW: This one here . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: This was done with Peter Fredrickson and yourself, Ernest Lenshaw. Where is it located?

ERNEST LENSHAW: A San Francisco General Hospital, children's tubercular ward, third floor on the south end.

MARY MCCHESNEY: And it goes around he whole room?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, it's forty feet long. Let's see now? No, it's more than that. Forty and two times eighteen, what's that?

MARY MCCHESNEY: That would be 36 . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: Eighty feet.

MARY MCCHESNEY: And it goes around all four walls?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, three walls. Twenty and twenty is forty and another forty, that's eighty feet, right? That's the size of it. Of course, the windows come up . . . but I didn't start this thing. Somebody else started it.

MARY MCCHESNEY: You didn't design it then?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I didn't do the designing part. I just, it was partly done when I got here. This was designed by a girl. Her name was Tomys Mead and when I got there, it was in the state of cartoon.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: This whole mural?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Did you do this on the walls? The canvas was already up?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Where did you work on it? Pickle Factory?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Oh, I remember that thing.

ERNEST LENSHAW: The mural was in the stage of cartoon and it wasn't complete.


ERNEST LENSHAW: I completed the mural, I mean the cartoon. I made the color scheme for it. I put it on canvas and Peter Fredrickson helped me paint it. We had to move it. We had it in three sections. One forty foot section and two eighteen foot sections for the end walls.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I remember this now.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Then we had to get it out of the Pickle Factory. So, they moved me up to Washington Street to a school and then the room was not long enough so I had to put the mural like this. Here is the room and my mural was so long see. So, I had to put I like this.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Oh, curve it around.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Build a curve there and make it like that. That's how I finished it.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Well, has this mural been done on one piece of canvas?


MRS.LENSHAW: You know I've never seen this mural.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Is it still out there at he hospital?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh yes, sure it is. You can go down and see it.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The whole mural on one canvas?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I mean the forty foot is one canvas.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: It was spliced in the corners, wasn't it?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh sure, oh yes. But the forty foot is one piece and Peter Fredrickson and I put it up and we had it in a great big roll and it was put on with white lead and we had a stand and we had the roll on the stand. We started on one end and we kept rolling it and putting it up and putting it up.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: That's what you were doing at the Pickle Factory too.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You were doing that same thing at the Pickle Factory, weren't you?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, how do you mean?


ERNEST LENSHAW: We had it all stretched at the Pickle Factory, yeh. But when we moved over to this school, we had it on angle like I showed Mary here, you see going around he corner and . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Tell me, Ernie, did both of your cats use those big fat palettes?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh no, that's just for the picture.


ERNEST LENSHAW: No, we had a little cart, you know . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Where did you find these great big palettes?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I still got them. They are made out of cardboard. You wan one?


ERNEST LENSHAW: There's one on top there.

MARY MCCHESNEY: They were made up for the photograph.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Just for the photograph. But what we had, you see, was a square thing on wheels and it had a cabinet underneath and it had all the colors in it and we had trays and we put water on them. We had little tins. Each color had little muffin tin, you know what I mean, muffin tins?


ERNEST LENSHAW: We'd just put water on it, you know, and we'd pour the water off and the next day we were ready to go again. I used to paint about four figures a day. There were 235 trees and figures and whatnots in this.


ERNEST LENSHAW: 235 different objects.

MRS.LENSHAW: We just gave away the original sketches for them. Don't you have one of the sketches left?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, there might be a little of it left downstairs.

MRS.LENSHAW: They are done on brown paper, packing paper.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, heavy paper, well, you know they were erased and what not.

MARY MCCHESNEY: It is very attractive. Were they bright colors? What kind of colors did you use?

ERNEST LENSHAW: They are nice. The sky is pink, not bright though.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Not bright though if I remember correctly.


MRS.LENSHAW: They are kind of modern colors. Aren't the trees sort of blue or something like that?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, there are a couple of blue trees in there.

MRS.LENSHAW: Moglie was berry brown.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, the boys, Peter painted the stones and all this stuff around there and I painted the figures. I think he painted, maybe, the trees or something. I forget. We divided up the work. He tried to do the figures but he said, "No." He wouldn't like that so I said, "Okay, I'll do the figures and animals and you do all the leaves and all this, the rocks and what we have down below here." So that's how it worked out.

MARY MCCHESNEY: What is the address of this hospital?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, it's on Potrero and 23rd between 22nd . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: The county hospital.

ERNEST LENSHAW: The county hospital. Yes . . .

MRS.LENSHAW: You can't get in there any day. You have to make an appointment.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, you can. During visiting hours, you can get in.

MRS.LENSHAW: Isn't there any restriction on the children's TB ward?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, you can get in any place, any time in the visiting hours. You can go down to the office, they'll let you in.

MARY MCCHESNEY: How long did you and Peter work on this mural?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, just about a year.

MARY MCCHESNEY: A year to do that.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, eighty feet long . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: Quite long, it's a big job.

ERNEST LENSHAW: About seven feet high and of course, the windows take up a lot space you know so. We started down at the Pickle Factory and then we moved over to that school, you know, I told you about where we had to bend the damn thing.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I think, if I remember correctly, I had to go over there with you . . . was it the same time we had to paint that whole place? Didn't we have to paint he interior with you working . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: You mean at the hospital?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: No, no, at the school, the second place you worked on the mural.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: On Washington Street there. It was an old school, wasn't it?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, it was an old school, that's right.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: And all brick.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, all brick. I had to bend the damn thing.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: If I remember correctly a bunch of us were sent over there to paint that thing white on the inside.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, is that so? The whole school?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: No, not the whole school, just some parts. Particular areas, maybe it was he area you worked in?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, I don't think so.

MRS.LENSHAW: They had offices or something upstairs because I remember going there myself once.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, the weaving project was there.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Could be. Yeh, we moved a lot of stuff. I don't know why we had to get out of the Pickle Factory. For some reason we had to get out of the Pickle Factory. I don't know just what the score was.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, I think the government had leased it and the lease was up or something like that.

MRS.LENSHAW: What happened to the girl that designed it?

ERNEST LENSHAW: She went to Hawaii.

MARY MCCHESNEY: That's Tomys Mead?


MARY MCCHESNEY: Tommy Mead. Does this illustrate a story of Kipling's?

ERNEST LENSHAW: It's the story of Moglie.


ERNEST LENSHAW: Moglie, one of Kipling's stories.

MRS.LENSHAW: From The Jungle Book.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, that's the story of it. Of course, it had snakes in it . . . I kept out the snakes because you know it might have had a bad influence on the children. I tried to make it pleasing for the children. There is an elephant, too, in the story but I don't have the elephant.

MRS.LENSHAW: Can't get an elephant through the doors, I guess.

ERNEST LENSHAW: There wasn't enough room for elephants.

MARY MCCHESNEY: After you did this project, then what did you do on the WPA?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, after I finished this project, that was the end of it.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Oh, that was the end.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Then the war came up. Then this was finished in 1942.

MRS.LENSHAW: What the two paintings out at Sunnyvale?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Sunnyvale, well I told about that already.

MRS.LENSHAW: Fisherman's wharf?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, well, that's out in the Sunnyvale housing project. But this was the last job I did. The war broke ou and the project folded up. And I went into the shipyard. I was painting in the shipyard.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Ernie, something I've been trying to find out very definitely and I haven't been able to do it. Remember the Artists Union? Do you remember when we had that demonstration?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes. I got . . a couple paintings in the Artists Union, Local 88, still have the damn things.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You mean one of the picket signs? We went out in demonstration.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh yeh, down there, yeh yeh yeh! And somebody called the police and by the time the police came, we had all disappeared. I remember that one very well.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Why were we out demonstrating? What was the issue?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, the issue was that Congress . . . see, we had a certain schedule. We were working I think about so many hours (I think about 20 hours). We had a certain schedule and then after we had completed this schedule, we had the rest of the times to ourselves to do our own things hat we liked to do.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Easel painting and that sort of thing.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Anything that we wanted to do that we were doing, we'd do. Then Congress got the bright idea that we should work all the time because we were getting paid such a fabulous sum of $94 or whatever it was per month. They made a law that we had to work every day and that was the reason we went on strike. Remember that?

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Was it a strike or just a demonstration?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Demonstration.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: We went out for one day, didn't we?

ERNEST LENSHAW: We went out for some time or another. I forget now.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Do you remember where the parade was we had?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, the one I was in was around the Acquatic Park. There might have been others but the one I was on was there.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Weren't the musicians and the theater group and the rest of them out at that time?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Could have been, could have been. I don't know. I can't remember that but I remember that demonstration and we were walking around and everybody was sitting inside there looking at us. There was a restaurant there, do you remember. When we first started out, there was a restaurant, a high class restaurant. We marched around with our signs.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Why were you demonstrating at the restaurant? Do you remember?

ERNEST LENSHAW: We weren't demonstrating against them, we were demonstrating against the projects.


ERNEST LENSHAW: Just like I told you, Congress passed a law that we had to work every day for the $95, see, instead of working just so many hours. I think it came to about a dollar an hour or something like that . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: The restaurant was at the end of the building.

MRS.LENSHAW: Where did you do the color chart on the walls?

ERNEST LENSHAW: It has the Senior Citizens now.

MRS.LENSHAW: When did you do the color chart on the wall?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, that, that room has no color chart that just . . .


ERNEST LENSHAW: Are you talking about Acquatic Park? Now this room is used by Senior Citizens.

MRS.LENSHAW: Oh, that room yes. Yes, that's right . . . it had a restaurant.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes, a restaurant.

MARY MCCHESNEY: You were demonstrating at the Acquatic Park then?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yes. Because they wanted to put in more hours for the same pay.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: I think for the same demonstration I was in downtown.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh, you weren't at Acquatic Park. I see.

MARY MCCHESNEY: They probably had them all over the city.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, different areas. I can't remember just what it was.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Do you remember what year it was? How far along in the project? Was it fairly early in the project?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, no no no no, it wasn't.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Was it toward the end?


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: You were still at Acquatic Park.

ERNEST LENSHAW: I think we were sill working at Acquatic Park but I . . .

MARY MCCHESNEY: That must have been ‘37.

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, no. I didn't work then. I know it was later than that. ‘39, ‘40, ‘41, ‘42, I don't know.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, I went over to the Fair and started on Volz's job late in ‘38. I was on First Street working on cartoons. And it was much later after that, that we had this demonstration.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: So it probably . . . well, it wasn't before you got off the Acquatic Park job.

ERNEST LENSHAW: I imagine. But you know, it's a long time. I can't remember. I can't say just what I did.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Probably the later part of ‘39.

MARY MCCHESNEY: During the time that you worked at Treasure Island on the Herman Volz mural, did you meet Diego Rivera? Were you acquainted with him?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No. I didn't meet him. I met the Bruton Sisters and I danced the Hambo with one of the sisters. I don't know which one. How many were there?

MARY MCCHESNEY: Three, I believe.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Oh yes, I met Cocorubius Covarrubias though.

MARY MCCHESNEY: The Mexican painter?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh. I met his wife and she was a dancer and I got acquainted with Covarrubias. Ann Medalie worked with Covarrubias and painted that mural with Covarrubias . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The map of the . . .

ERNEST LENSHAW: The map of the . . . what was it . . . this . . .


ERNEST LENSHAW: The countries of the Pacific. The Pacific Basin they called that thing and what was his name that was doing that?


ERNEST LENSHAW: Sotomayer was doing that job and of course, I met him and know him.

MARY MCCHESNEY: He was working with Covarrubias?

ERNEST LENSHAW: No, he had his own project. He made a big sort of geographical map of the Pacific Basin. Wasn't that what he called that?

MRS.LENSHAW: No, it was something else. I saw a picture of it. It was called something in Spanish, it's name was something else.


ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Well, anyway it was all the different countries.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, the countries that bordered on the Pacific like . . .

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: The continents.

ERNEST LENSHAW: More or less like North America, Chili and South America and all these countries down around there and the Philippines and . . .

MRS.LENSHAW: Ann Medalie, you said, Ann Medalie. Her name was Medale [incorrect]

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, she worked with Covarrubias when Covarrubias was doing that map and he was doing it in some kind of lacquer. I forget now but I think he was sorry he ever started doing it with that stuff because it didn't work out too well in regards to its workability.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: Fascinating in its detail.

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, he was very good, very fine.

ROBERT MCCHESNEY: For a total of time you were on he WPA projects for about four years.


MARY MCCHESNEY: What did you think of that period of American Art History? Do you have any general comments on it?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Yeh, I sure have. I think it was a great period. I think it was one of the greatest periods of American Art. It was one of the finest projects that has ever been . . . what should I say? . . . achieved in the history of American Art. That's my opinion.

MARY MCCHESNEY: How do you think it affected you yourself as an artist?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, I think it was one of the very happy times, one of my very happy times in . . . what shall I say . . . in my endeavors in the arts.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Why was it so happy? Because you were working with other artists?

ERNEST LENSHAW: Well, you had a certain income and you didn't have to worry about that and there were many great projects that were on a large scope. Well, it was just stimulating! Just yes . . . other artists too, I'd say working with other artists was a great thing and the whole thing was on such a big scale and the conditions were very favorable toward art in general.

MARY MCCHESNEY: Do you think it would be a good idea for the United States to set up another project like the WPA?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I certainly do.

MARY MCCHESNEY: If they did do something like this, would you have any suggestions that might improve the situation for the artist? Did you have any objections to the way the WPA project was run during the time that you were on it? Any things that were difficult for you as a painter or that you think might be improved in one way or another?

ERNEST LENSHAW: In such a short time that we have together, it would be very hard for me to tell you just what I think should be done. I mean, it's something that I think should be really thought over very carefully. I don't like to make a statement that that's what they should do. If I had more time to kind of think it over, I probably could say something but right at the moment, I just can't say what could be done or what should be done.

MARY MCCHESNEY: But, in general you think it was a very fruitful period?

ERNEST LENSHAW: I certainly do, most certainly do. It was a very good thing. It was . . . a lot of those things that were done during that period were never done before. And never after have I seen anything like it. And I don't think anybody else has. It was a unique thing in American History of art, tremendous!


Last updated... September 24, 2002

How to Use This Collection

Transcript available on line.

Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Ernest Lenshaw, 1964 May 19. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.