Skip to main content

Oral History interview with Nell Sinton, 1974 August 15

Sinton, Nell, 1910-1997

Muralist, Painter


Collection Information

Size: Transcript: 37 pages

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hr., 26 min.

Summary: An interview with Nell Sinton conducted 1974 August 15, by Paul Karlstrom, for the Archives of American Art.

Sinton discusses the 1960s art world of San Francisco, among other topics.

Biographical/Historical Note

Nell Sinton (1910-1997) was a painter and art collector from San Francisco, California.


These interviews are part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.


Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.



The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Nell Sinton on August 15, 1974. The interview took place in San Francisco, CA, and was conducted by Paul Karlstrom for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose. This is a rough transcription that may include typographical errors.


PAUL KARLSTROM: Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, a conversation with Nell Sinton at her home in San Francisco on August 15, 1974.

NELL SINTON: I feel that way very strongly, of course, of the total blank about my grandparents back then -- not total, but -- there's a picture of the house in Germany.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible)

MS. SINTON: Yes. It was a picture of the house in Germany. I don't even know how my grandfather got here, whether he came around the Cape of Good Hope, I mean, Cape Horn. I don't think he came in the (inaudible) came in the 1850s.

MR. KARLSTROM: The 1850s, your grandfather (inaudible) San Francisco. A lot of people (inaudible) forebears didn't come, I think, until the '60s.

MS. SINTON: Really? Well, my great-grandfather's firm -- it was established in 1858 -- was in San Francisco. So before that they're similar (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: I think that's really amazing.

MS. SINTON: Well, yeah.

MR. KARLSTROM: I mean, you've -- there aren't too many around who can carry back that far.

MS. SINTON: Right. Besides -- until the war, I mean the Second War, I thought everybody was born here. I thought everybody in this town was born here and I could cash a check on the streetcar and --

MR. KARLSTROM: It will be okay.

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible) and it would be okay. Yeah. And now it's just exactly the opposite. Hardly anybody was born here it seems like.

MR. KARLSTROM: Well , of course, it's a bigger city. I guess it's shrinking a little bit now. But a lot of people wanted to come here, and they did.

MS. SINTON: Oh, I'm sure. After the war people changed. But anyway, as far as background stuff, yeah. I think -- I agree with you. You had (inaudible) nobody wants this anymore. But at least we've made inroads for somebody, maybe the second generation.

MR. KARLSTROM: Um-hm. Well, the point is that (inaudible) object, or people are if they -- if the object itself has actually (inaudible) for keeping the object. If this has meaning and value, then it's something else. But as far as the information about the family, whatever happens to be there, if it's safe, it's available, or I suppose (inaudible). But the information is available on microfilm , which is something I point out, sometimes. Well, I trust it's something you were given to do this. (Inaudible) important, very important recent acquisition.

And the last (inaudible) really cared about -- well, she wrote a book (inaudible). Well, he doesn't seem to care too much. She's the one who married into the family and is really the historian.


MR. KARLSTROM: And she doesn't think that the kids really fully appreciate or understand. And she felt this is the time to -- and obviously (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: Yeah. But, see, I'm telling you. It's a very fine feeling. If it had been done before, you know, I would have been able to go to you and say, "Tell me about my grandfather." But you would have told me about my grandfather.

MR. KARLSTROM: That's right. That's right.


MR. KARLSTROM: Well, hopefully, I mean, if it were plugged into the -- the information -- not to digress too much. But you were saying how there's all kinds of material for this script.


MR. KARLSTROM: And this is how -- although we feel that the history of art, visual art, in the United States -- this is our focus.

MS. SINTON: Um-hm.

MR. KARLSTROM: I don't know why I should be surprised how that then branches out. You started with a scrapbook of correspondence of art. You know, that's the only thing they're interested in, their art.


MR. KARLSTROM: They also are corresponding with other people, some interesting, some we don't know. Since we begin to move into literature, other fields --

MS. SINTON: Yeah. That's how (inaudible) American Historical Society, which is another subject altogether, you know? But they would -- they are the people who should know about my grandfather (inaudible). I don't think they do, but (inaudible). But it goes like this.

MR. KARLSTROM: And you can tell that I, at least, feel a certain sense of mission about what we're doing.


MR. KARLSTROM: That I think it's important makes it very easy for me to go to somebody's home and say -- no matter that you may not know us, but the thing you should do (inaudible).


MR. KARLSTROM: And (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: What qualifications do you have to have for this?

MR. KARLSTROM: For my job?


MR. KARLSTROM: Oh, I don't know that it's really spelled out. I can tell you what --

MS. SINTON: I mean, you have to have an M.A. or a Ph.D.?

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, I've got a Ph.D. in American Art History.

MS. SINTON: American Art?

MR. KARLSTROM: Yeah. I'm a historian.

MS. SINTON: Well, I guess that's the best training.

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, I'm the only one.

MS. SINTON: Where did you get it?

MR. KARLSTROM: I'm the only one in the organization. At UCLA. I did my undergraduate at Stanford -- my M.A., and my Ph.D. at UCLA. In fact, I got my undergraduate degree in English, English Literature.

MS. SINTON: My son has got his Ph.D. in Russian History of the eighteenth century, at Indiana, which has a good department. And now -- and then gave it all up after he wrote his dissertation and had a job. He gave it up for ecology, and now he's a land use planner.

MR. KARLSTROM: I can't imagine there are too many. He must be a rather rare bird in this country.

MS. SINTON: Well, he's in a very popular field this minute.

MR. KARLSTROM: That's right. Yes.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. It was Russian history of the eighteenth century (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: I don't know. I imagine he could get a very good teaching job somewhere with that, now.

MS. SINTON: Well, the coasts are full of them.


MS. SINTON: And the State Department is full of them. Or he could get a really interesting job and be in the middle of the West or the South.

MR. KARLSTROM: Is that right? There are that many people in that field?

MS. SINTON: Oh, yeah.

MR. KARLSTROM: That shows how much I know about (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: Really exotic, take Chinese.


MS. SINTON: But they don't have that much pull.

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, as far as the qualifications for this job, it's kind of -- I suppose, frankly, the most important one is somebody who can be reasonably pleasant and enjoys people. I frankly think that's the most important qualification. It helps to have some background in art or history or art history. And it so happens that I am very much an art historian. But as I say, I'm the only one in the whole Archives organization who is this much of an academic.

MS. SINTON: Do you know Joe Goldyne?

MR. KARLSTROM: No, I don't.

MS. SINTON: Do you know him? I mean, have you heard of him?

MR. KARLSTROM: No, no, I haven't.

MS. SINTON: Haven't you?

MR. KARLSTROM: No. Joe Goldyne?

MS. SINTON: Oh, Joe Goldyne is about 30, a local boy who graduated from the University of California Medical School. He was adopted. Then he decided he wanted to really be an art historian. And so he went to Harvard and got a Ph.D.

MR. KARLSTROM: In what? What was his specialty?

MS. SINTON: English landscape painters.


MS. SINTON: And he's simply delightful. He lives down here, and --

MR. KARLSTROM: He's teaching? He must be teaching.

MS. SINTON: He's teaching some at the University of California, but he's also decided to be an artist. And he's an etcher. He's at the P Galleries (inaudible). He's going to show in September. And he does fantastic etchings and a person of enormous -- and old-fashioned -- discrimination. I'll tell you, he's a delight. I mean, he has an outstanding collection of art, of Italian Renaissance drawings, paintings. He's delightful. He's a historian. He collects. He's a professor. He's a delight.

MR. KARLSTROM: Joe Goldyne.

MS. SINTON: G-o-l-d-y-n-e.

MR. KARLSTROM: Let me jot that down.


MR. KARLSTROM: He must know some of the members of my (inaudible) down in Huntington.

MS. SINTON: Probably. Oh, yes. He does go to Huntington.

MR. KARLSTROM: Yeah, because Walt (phonetic) is probably the most respected scholar in late eighteenth century British --

MS. SINTON: Do you know Gene Ackerman (phonetic)?

MR. KARLSTROM: I don't know him personally.

MS. SINTON: Oh, he's an old friend, from here. His family was (inaudible).


MS. SINTON: (Inaudible) He's a good person.

MR. KARLSTROM: Yeah. I'd like to meet Joe Goldyne. I haven't really met that many art historians around. I don't think there are more than half-a-dozen or so. But --

MS. SINTON: You'd enjoy Joe. Well, one of Joe's people that he's very fond of -- and I only met her once, and I hope to see her again -- is Phyllis Hardis (phonetic) at the Offenbach.

MR. KARLSTROM: Yeah, I know her, although she's hardly ever around. She's always on the (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: I think so.

MR. KARLSTROM: Yeah, she's very interested in (inaudible), very enterprising.

MS. SINTON: And aggressive, yeah, very. Yeah.

MR. KARLSTROM: You know, one of the things I had hoped to get from you -- yours is an automatic (inaudible) name (inaudible) keeps coming up, always. (Inaudible) Everybody seems to have the idea that all of the information from the last few decades resides in a few memories around here. Yours is one of them. Ruth Arbor (phonetic) is another one, although she disclosed that she -- she said, "I don't know anything. I don't have anything."

MS. SINTON: Which actually, she -- that's one of her things. See, I don't know why -- I don't know why she doesn't want to talk about it. She has rich memories.

MR. KARLSTROM: I know she does. But one of the things But after this, I tell, you know, I know (inaudible) this time. It was then that he came to pay my tuition. He explained -- paintings now.

MR. KARLSTROM: I know she does. And I know she wants -- and it's funny.

MS. SINTON: She likes you. So I would think -- you have her confidence.

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, we certainly got along. And we did, I'd say, talk about two hours yesterday afternoon. And she was a little apprehensive about it, because she seems genuinely to feel that she's not that articulate, that she doesn't have that much to say. And so I structured it so that I would have a number of questions of specific things to ask. But I also have the feeling that I'm going to have to get back to her again. She enjoyed the session, much to her surprise. But still, I know that there are a lot of things, especially about the twenties and thirties that -- a lot of things that could come out looking very (inaudible) that not too many other people know.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. Right. Not anymore.

MR. KARLSTROM: Not anymore.

MS. SINTON: They're gone. I feel sorry for her.

MR. KARLSTROM: Do you know when she was born?

MS. SINTON: 1886?


MS. SINTON: Right. Right. She's not well.

MR. KARLSTROM: She doesn't show it, though.

MS. SINTON: No. She has the best spirit.

MR. KARLSTROM: What (inaudible). She mentioned that. I was smoking. I asked her -- I just smoked, and I offered her one. She says no. She said, "I found out too late about that."

MS. SINTON: Well, She's an extraordinary person. Terrific strength. I'm very envious of her youth, which I consider mine having been misspent.

MR. KARLSTROM: I won't take that (inaudible).


MR. KARLSTROM: Your work interests me. I still want to talk too much with you about really interesting things.

MS. SINTON: All right.

MR. KARLSTROM: Because I'm not -- I don't have much (inaudible).


MR. KARLSTROM: But some of the things that I'm obviously not (inaudible). I mean, I make no -- at least I'm in California. But I was around in San Francisco during most of the time that yours were collected. And so I really did know the situation-it's been an education . I've been here a year, I've been finding out, learning about people, finding out about people I've heard of. And it's fascinating. And the pieces are coming together. But some of the things that are very interesting to me, the whole business surrounding, you know, (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: Oh, yeah, that's what we started on in the first place.

MR. KARLSTROM: That's right.

MS. SINTON: When I gave you that (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) And of course, I've interviewed Walter twice and quite interesting. And I haven't met Jane. And I hope to real soon.

MS. SINTON: Uh-huh.

MR. KARLSTROM: But you obviously at one time were very much involved.

MS. SINTON: Oh, yeah. I was very involved with them. It was -- let's see. When was that? It was a time in my life that I was desperately looking for an identity with the art world. And then I found it there, which was actually where things were going on, in my opinion, at that time, here. Afterwards, you know, when you get into something -- at least when I get into something I get sort of a resonance for it. Afterwards, when I come upon it at a distance, I can see what was really going on.

MR. KARLSTROM: You were very settled then.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. And I know why these people -- I think I know why these people had prominence then, and they should have had. But I don't know how much you want me to go into depth about that at this time.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible).

MS. SINTON: I'd be glad to do it.

MR. KARLSTROM: I'd be happy if we should lengthen -- you know, really get some of this.

MS. SINTON: This is a part that I know better than any others, it's nearer to me. And it's a time when I finally did get involved personally with people, artists. I've spent an awful lot of my life skating and (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: Misspent youth?

MS. SINTON: I've been enormously spoiled!


MS. SINTON: It was partly part of my background and -- hm?

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible)

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible)

MS. SINTON: Well, actually (inaudible). Well, I'll tell you so you'll know where I'm going further with this. I'll tell you this. When in 1958 I got separated from my husband, I realized that I would have a hell of a lot of work to do. And so through therapy, very creative therapy, I got to look back in a very, very good way. So I brought my whole back up and was able to go ahead. Now, now I'm surrounded -- that's why I worried and I told you that (inaudible) because I couldn't know how to go ahead or what my even present was until I knew what my past was. And so I've been working at this since 1958. So I got a pretty good idea of it now. It's not very -- I mean, it's been pretty much documented and collaborated, you know. I mean, we have integrated the things that happened to us in the past years. I made a scroll. I'm on my second scroll now. This was away from my painting. And this one, the first scroll, I hope to have exhibited at the (inaudible) exhibit, sometime in September or October. It's supposed to be. The date hasn't been set yet. Anyway, it goes on for thirty feet. And it's called "Under the Table at the Donna Parties: A Dining Room Frieze."


MS. SINTON: And it's terrible. It's terrible. And it's kind of -- everything I've ever known in my life has gone on under the table.


MS. SINTON: Activities under the table.

MR. KARLSTROM: Part of that scroll, that document.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. It's 30 feet long and 2 feet high. The one I'm doing now is going to be even longer, and it's called "A Social Development of an American Female." So when you say this, you'll see how I was able to (inaudible) my misspent youth into (inaudible) spending my lifetime on, the rest of it.

MR. KARLSTROM: When did you do under the table (inaudible)?


MR. KARLSTROM: Yes. Was it recent?

MS. SINTON: Oh, yeah. I guess it was the last two years. See, I was the first -- first I was a representational painter. But "cute", because that was all I knew, was "cute." That's all I wanted to know. I did not want to really grow up because then I'd (inaudible). So then I stopped that and went into abstract painting, pretty successful. I did that for fifteen years, I guess. And then for the last two years, in getting ready for this show, I had models (inaudible) on the other side of the world. So I've given up that structure for the time being. I hope to get back to it sometime, but another way altogether. I'm not (inaudible). And so, I had these models. Well, at the same time that I got into this scroll business --

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) ask you about that (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: (LAUGHTER) It's called -- at first I couldn't -- it was too painful; I couldn't do it.

MR. KARLSTROM: It's really autobiographical.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. And so -- yeah. I did -- and at the same time, I also did -- gosh, it's all been going on for the last two or three years -- an autobiography for the book about me that we're writing.

MR. KARLSTROM: What is this for, by the way?

MS. SINTON: Oh, the book I'm writing is with a woman named Juanita Staben, who is a therapist and a teacher across the bay. It talks about it here. She's (inaudible) now. And we talk together. And let's see. I talked once with the artist, twice with the artist. And she has something across the bay called "creative and artist development (inaudible) which is creative behavior, a writing class and an art class. Well, she knows lesson plans, and teaches with these. (Inaudible) the critics (inaudible). I can remember these other things, and I (inaudible). (Inaudible) Where are you going? Then, in doing this, I made a whole bunch of drawings and paintings of my family. And then I composed a painting of him. It's a huge painting. I don't know if you'll get to see it, but it's at the Wolf Gallery. Someday it will be seen. So I suppose (inaudible) very autobiographical. And that's why it's comparatively easy for me to talk about it because now (inaudible) reasons (inaudible). I never thought about it but I suppose I might have frightened some people. (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, you're (inaudible) now.

MS. SINTON: (LAUGHTER) I've gotten to the place now where I don't even know when I'm frightening. That I should be aware of.

MR. KARLSTROM: That you should regain, perhaps. It's refreshing.

MS. SINTON: Right.

MR. KARLSTROM: Certainly from my point of view, the story of the artist's point of view, that would be ideal.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. I'm sure you don't want any dirty laundry.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) somebody has to be. But it's a way of (inaudible).


MR. KARLSTROM: But luckily I don't have to do that.

MS. SINTON: You don't?

MR. KARLSTROM: No. We at least (inaudible) Institute gather (inaudible) information and then give (inaudible).


MR. KARLSTROM: We go to the art classes and write all of our (inaudible) whole idea of a historical piece (inaudible) documentation be brought together in one place (inaudible) dissertation.

MS. SINTON: That's fantastic. I have a very hard time staying focused, actually. Just now I wandered away. I have to be pulled back, by the way. I've noticed that. I don't mind at all. Please pull me back.


MS. SINTON: Pull me back.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible)

MS. SINTON: Vaguely.

MR. KARLSTROM: I have a question, though I don't want to interrupt your stream, since you already wandered off.

MS. SINTON: I just had a couple of thoughts that (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: I would have (inaudible) of all people. The material that you included in the (inaudible) letters that you left to the San Francisco museum is now (inaudible) tremendous, tremendously revealing, very sensitive, I would say awe-inspiring (inaudible) unusual in the personal quality. It's funny. One thing that I want to ask you about because I first wanted to ask Walt. Walt acts in a way as if Jane left him, although he didn't say anything. He puts a certain light on it. You know, the letters from Jane to you she says "Walt has left." Do you feel like just telling me straight what the situation there was?

MS. SINTON: Well, I suppose it could be complicated because Wally was, Jay was behaving totally immaturely, not necessarily all her life, as a matter of fact, I think she probably still is. I don't see her anymore. She, you know, had a real hard time growing up altogether. So, at that time, I always thought of Wally as a father to her. Actually, when I had a chance to look at them at a distance (inaudible), I thought that they were very immature (inaudible). He posed as a patriarchal type, (inaudible) of the art school, you know, he had a lot of responsible jobs given to him, which I thought he was very (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: (inaudible)

MS. SINTON: (inaudible) which I thought (inaudible). As a matter of fact, (inaudible) was -- when was this? (Inaudible)?


MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)?

MR. KARLSTROM: Yes. That was (inaudible). Out at UCLA, that was 1960.

MS. SINTON: I had just come back from the war (Inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) we're talking about 1968, 1969 (inaudible). After the Cambodian invasion.


MR. KARLSTROM: A big deal. It happened during the Cambodian invasion.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. Well, at that time I happened to have (inaudible). I was interested because of the (inaudible) artists. (Inaudible) genuinely interested, always a good student.


MS. SINTON: And (inaudible) was going on. And Jane was very excited. She was (inaudible). Then I got carried away and told her I had a book called Hello (Inaudible) Moore, which I had just gotten in Paris from the students' protest. (Inaudible) olden times. (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: Did that have to do with the students --

MS. SINTON: Yeah. And you know, it's banned (inaudible) because of protest. There's a scribe or a publisher or something (inaudible) write a little list of them, writing down individual sellers (inaudible). Those were (inaudible). We saw (inaudible). And she wanted to come see it. And she wanted to show it to her class (inaudible) and she wouldn't lose it, and she did. So she tried to make it up to me by giving me a collection of posters the students had done. of (inaudible), which did not make it up to me. But this is (inaudible) did a book. Anyway, so that was (inaudible) with her. Then I'd written to Wally (inaudible) the students (inaudible) about that time in the (inaudible). And he was absolutely awful. He said, "If this were my school, there wouldn't be any classes. The school would simply be open 24 hours a day, and there would always be teachers who would teach whenever our students felt like being taught. There would be no schedules. And there would be no clean-ups." What else? He was describing anarchy as far as I was concerned, staying at his school because it would pay money. It was ridiculously (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: Incidentally, how is (inaudible) similar to (inaudible)? You should get a chance with (inaudible) and other things.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. Well, then, I remember their saying, "Well, do you want us to do a regular commercial school?" (Inaudible) awful. (Inaudible) Anyway, I was very annoyed at Wally because Wally is enormously mischievous, which was okay because he was in the right place. If he had been in the wrong place -- I didn't like it. I was very disappointed. I thought he was a really good artist. And I wanted (inaudible) enjoyed.

MR. KARLSTROM: I've seen his latest paintings by the way.

MS. SINTON: How are they?

MR. KARLSTROM: I was trying to say they interesting. I had pretty much a chronology here. He and I went through the (inaudible) evolution and development (inaudible) liked that idea. Nevertheless, there are favorites. And his latest thing he said -- we talked about (inaudible). And he (inaudible). (Inaudible) and there are big white canvasses (inaudible) canvasses. And what he does is wait for his (inaudible) and reproduce sort of cuts and engravings from commercial catalogs of the early part of this century and the late 19th century -- I can't remember the name of the company. But there was one company that as a kid he used to (inaudible) with this catalog. Well, I don't know where I ever actually would get the engravings done or what. But of course, they're very popular anyway. They've republished his (inaudible).


MR. KARLSTROM: And as things (inaudible) surviving (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: But maybe he goes and works on the (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: Yeah, he (inaudible) them on a canvas, and he actually works in the dark. I mean, he paints the projection.

MS. SINTON: He paints the projection, I see.

MR. KARLSTROM: All on the canvas.

MS. SINTON: Uh-huh.

MR. KARLSTROM: And like one of them was a big funny head of cabbage.


MR. KARLSTROM: And I can't remember what the text, the lettering was. But he did it all by hand and it was just kind of rough. But then on the wood engraving or an engraving. The cut that was blown up was rough anyway.


MR. KARLSTROM: And it was sort of interesting. And in a way, I asked him if he was afraid of (inaudible).


MR. KARLSTROM: And he laughed. He goes, "Yeah, of course." So that's what he's doing now.

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)


MS. SINTON: He's so tough.

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, here is the latest thing. This was (inaudible) gallery. So, he is doing some work, anyway.

MS. SINTON: And he has a baby?

MR. KARLSTROM: Yes, yes.

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: He has a baby called Max, nine months old. In fact, my wife and I were down (inaudible) out there twice. The second time I took my wife and our little girl, at that time only about two months. And (inaudible) he and Julie and Ann and Max and Clara our daughter played while Wally and I did the tape (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: Did not used to be cute. I thought his work was (inaudible).


MS. SINTON: (Inaudible) funny and original. But now this (inaudible) is (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, of course, I don't know how to describe it well (inaudible) but that's just, you know, basic description. And I thought that in general he would want to think about it. And at this point I was most interested to find out that he was working, again, because he -- most people think that he's just dropped out -- he's been teaching down in San Jose two days a week or something like that to a hell of a crowd.

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: Yes. But he needs the money, I gather he is kind of hard up. Everybody is a little bit in one way or another.

MS. SINTON: Oh, everybody is in one way or another. But I never thought Wally really was good for that school until he was (inaudible) as an artist.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible)

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible) an artist (inaudible). Jay was a good artist but she paralyzed herself, absolutely crippled herself by (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: Would you agree that Copeland, I mean I know that John Copeland's is a dirty name here (inaudible)

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) But nevertheless he did a bit -- of course, he's (inaudible). But there's an issue of Art in America (inaudible) counseling on (inaudible) can't remember (inaudible). This is roughly the time we're talking about. Maybe the mid sixties (inaudible)

MS. SINTON: Um-hm.

MR. KARLSTROM: It really was a survey of Northern and Southern California artists. And it was talking about David Bale and (inaudible). There would just be little parts about different people, how he felt she was really a strong artist, really a capable artist. But that she had more or less fell into state of inertia, working and re-working the same painting. I guess that's The Rose.

MS. SINTON: That was the Rose.

MR. KARLSTROM: And would you agree with this, that she did -- there was an obstacle there, that she, in other words, he felt was (inaudible) development (inaudible)?

MS. SINTON: Actually, I really don't like the painting. I thought it looked like a portrait of Queen Victoria. (Inaudible) just don't like it. I think in a weird way (inaudible).


MS. SINTON: It's now at the (inaudible).


MS. SINTON: It's being restored. And after that, someone has (inaudible) restoration. Nobody is willing to.

MR. KARLSTROM: They own it?

MS. SINTON: Nobody owns it.


MS. SINTON: I think probably several museums are willing to accept it as a gift. But nobody wants to pay for the restoration. Also, they (inaudible), is what I heard from Sue.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) would be interested.

MS. SINTON: What? Someone has to pay for the -- (inaudible). But furthermore, oh, I think there was something else about that someone was telling me. Jay wants to be paid for. Nobody wants to buy it.

MR. KARLSTROM: I could understand, of course, she spent half this time working on it.

MS. SINTON: That's right. And yet -- and the (inaudible) say she's entitled. And yet she said -- I'm quoting her as to (inaudible) "I just wanted to have a nice (inaudible)." (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) it's something of a sacred cow, representing, perhaps, I'm just guessing, it sounds to me, is that it's importance is almost symbolic that it represents an era of development, perhaps being a strong work of art. So it takes on -- it's almost a document.

MS. SINTON: I think that's (inaudible). It's a document. (Inaudible)


MR. KARLSTROM: Continuation of conversation between Nell Sinton and Paul Karlstrom.

MS. SINTON: Adorable.

MR. KARLSTROM: Adorable.

MS. SINTON: Beautiful. Very, very, very good art (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) works.

MS. SINTON: They were works of art. They (inaudible) getting them ready. She spent three, four, five months over getting them ready (inaudible). Then she never displayed them.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) idea for the (inaudible) mechanical Christmas tree with the lights.

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible) was there.


MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) parts that would reach out --

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible)

MS. SINTON: (Inaudible) I never saw it in my life. Really, that's wonderful. (Inaudible)

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible)

MS. SINTON: I don't understand (inaudible).

MR. KARLSTROM: Well, I should qualify that.

MS. SINTON: I know.

MR. KARLSTROM: I don't know if he out and out said that or if he was just being delicate and maybe --

MS. SINTON: Oh, probably. Yeah, delicate.


MS. SINTON: Modest. Well, the day that that thing left Fillmore Street, he left.


MS. SINTON: The Rose went off to Pasadena, and Jay with it. And Wally left with Julie that day.

MR. KARLSTROM: (Inaudible) Um-hm. So that was (inaudible).

MS. SINTON: And Julie was called "Sam." You know why?


MS. SINTON: Because he was absent from home so much, and Jay would say "Where are you" and "Where did you go?" and he would say, "I was playing poker with Sam."


MR. KARLSTROM: Playing poker with Sam. That's terrible. That poker game produced Max.

MS. SINTON: Yeah. (Inaudible) I don't know how often. (Inaudible)




Last updated...June 11, 2009


How to Use This Collection

Transcript is available on the Archives of American Art website.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral History interview with Nell Sinton, 1974 August 15. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.