Oral Histories

Interview of Millard Sheets

Painter known for his painted mosaic murals. Scripps college professor of art and director of the Otis College of Art and Design.
Subtitle:
Los Angeles Art Community: Group Portrait, Millard Sheets
Series:
Los Angeles Art Community - Group Portrait
Topic:
Art
Interviewer:
Goodwin, George M.
Interviewee:
Sheets, Millard
Persons Present:
Tapes I to X: Sheets and Goodwin. Tape XI: Sheets, Goodwin, and Nancy Olexo.
Place Conducted:
Tapes I to X: Sheets's apartment in Pasadena, California; Tape XI: Sheets 's home in Gualala, California and at the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation in Pasadena, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by George M. Goodwin, Interviewer-Editor, UCLA Oral History Program (for "L.A. Art Community: Group Portrait"); B.A., Art History, Lake Forest College; M.A., Art History, Columbia University; Ph.D., Art Education, Stanford University. Acting Curator of Education, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1975-76. Goodwin prepared for the interview by pursuing a full biographical study, with broad coverage of the interviewee's multifaceted career.
Processing of Interview:
Editing was done by the interviewer. The verbatim transcript of the interview was checked against the original tape recordings and edited for punctuation, paragraphing, correct spelling, and verification of proper and place names. This final manuscript remains in the same order as the original taped material. Words and phrases added by the editor appear in brackets. Sheets reviewed and approved the edited transcript. He made a number of corrections and additions, and he supplied spellings of some names not previously verified. The interviewer wrote the introduction. The index was prepared by Lawrence Weschler, Assistant Editor, Oral History Program. Other front matter was prepared by the Program staff.
Length:
16 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
Series Statement:
This series includes interviews with prominent Los Angeles-based visual artists and other members of the art establishment whose careers span the period from the 1920s through the 1970s. It documents the art community of the pre-World War II period and the rise of Los Angeles as a nationally recognized art center in the postwar period. Funding for this series was provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Birth in Pomona, California--Upbringing by grandparents--Family background--Art lessons and schooling--Meeting Theodore Modra at the Los Angeles County Fair--Meeting Clarence Hinkle--High school art and other studies--Church, Boy Scouts, and YMCA--Decision to attend Chouinard Art Institute--Mrs. Nelbert Chouinard--Chouinard: curriculum--Students--Faculty--Los Angeles as an art center: museums and galleries--Earl Stendahl.
Cowie Gallery--Initial contact with Dalzell Hatfield--First exhibition--Edgar B. Davis Prize--Other prizes--Setting up a studio with Phil Dike--Cutting classes to paint a Gypsy encampment--Trip with Bill Veale to Central and South America--Meeting with Cass Gilbert in New York--Traveling in Europe with friend from Chouinard--European museums--Acceptance at Autumn Salon in Paris--Experiences in Paris lithography workshop--Return: exhibition at Hatfield's.
Teaching: at the University of Hawaii, the University of California--At Stickney Art Institute, Pasadena--At Chouinard--Sources of watercolor painting--Techniques of painting a watercolor--Importance of drawing as a discipline--Using models in teaching--Devising new drawing assignments--Qualities of a painter--Exposing students to a variety of materials.
Need of artists for exposure to media and materials--Artists and the future--Articulating a philosophy of art education--Chouinard in the twenties and thirties--Mrs. Chouinard--Later Disney support of the institute--Scripps College: mural commission--Acting professorship--Building a house in Claremont--Hartley Alexander--Tuesday nights at the Alexander home—Alexander's essay on van Gogh--Humanities program at Scripps.
Scripps: need for studio facilities--President Ernst Jaqua proposes a Fine Arts Foundation--Mrs. Florence Lang: visits and subsequent gifts of buildings--Fine Arts Foundation--National ceramics shows--Background of Mrs. Lang--Art faculty at Scripps--The graduate program--Summer sessions--Prominent graduates--Jack Zajac--Tom Van Sant--Educating the artist.
Hiring professionals as faculty--Faculty unity--Contribution of Albert Stewart--Innovativeness and individuality of style--Teaching the fundamentals--Opposition to present art teaching methodology--Teacher, administrator, artist--Lecture tours for Association of American Colleges--Visiting Grant Wood in Iowa--Lecturing at black colleges--Martinez mural at Scripps--Orozco mural at Pomona College.
Orozco mural at Pomona [cont'd]--Lebrun mural at Pomona--Siqueiros in Los Angeles--Foreign influences--Building a home in Padua Hills. [Second Part] (December 10, 1976) Commission to design an air school--Artistic and structural details--Decision to build other schools--Later FBI investigation of contracting procedures--Experimentation with rammed earth--Invitation from War Department to become combat artist--Cancellation of war artists program.
Hired by Life as war correspondent--To India from Los Angeles by ship--Gunnery practice and serving watches--Building furniture in spare time--Sea stories--Painting a mural for crew's gallery--More sea stories--Arrival in Hobart, Tasmania, harbor--Encounter with drunken captain--Arrival in Madras, India--Running aground--First sight of India: floating bodies in the river.
Calcutta: overcrowding and famine--New Delhi: meeting the viceroy of India--Friendship with viceroy's aide--Lord and Lady Wavell--Exhibition of war artists--Meeting Lord Mountbatten--Taken to the Arakan front--Chittagong--British fliers--Battle of Bamboo Hill--Tony Beauchamp--Premature bombing attack--Brushes with death--Lucien Labaudt embarks (in Sheet's place) for China.
Labaudt killed en route--Tragedies of correspondents--Accompanying longest flight mission of war--Desire to contest demotion of General Stilwell--Decision to return to New York--Departure from New Delhi--The long way home: tour of Middle East--Ups and downs of return flights--Rendezvous with wife--New York: meeting with Life staff--Return to Southern California--Breaking Stilwell story against White House orders--Resignation from Life.
The Los Angeles County Fair: assisting Theodore Modra--Invitation to direct the art program--Purpose of the art show--Juries and prizes--Postwar change of format--"One World of Art" exhibition--Guided tour for Governor Warren--Arthur Millier's assistance--"5,000 Years of Art in Clay" exhibition--"Western Living" exhibition--Collaboration among artists, architects, and decorators--The finance of collecting--Calculating an artist's fee.
Need for mass art education--Developing interest through collecting--Art education today--"Painting in the United States" exhibition: showing abstract painters--The County Museum and the county fair--Dr. William R. Valentiner--Grace Nicholson and the Pasadena museum--Gifts to museums--The Huntington Art Gallery--Growing problems with the county fair--Conflict over photography show--Subsequent development of art at the fair--"California Design" exhibitions at Pasadena museum--Sam Maloof, furniture designer--Serving on national exhibition juries--Incident at the Metropolitan.
Scottish Rite Masonic Temple: subjects and designs--Mosaic mural--Sculpture on the south facade--Interior spaces and decoration--Masons' funds and philanthropic activities--Designing the Masonic temple in San Francisco--Other activities: involvement in motion pictures--Design for academic gowns for Scripps College--Official seal for Los Angeles County--Work for air force in Formosa--Lectures for State Department in Turkey--Travels in Turkey.
Diego Rivera--Public Works Administration projects in Southern California--PWA committee membership--Activities--Los Angeles art community in the Depression- -PWA artists--Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg--Initial involvement with Home Savings--Meeting Howard Ahmanson--Ahmanson's office--Invitation to design a building--Ahmanson's instructions--Submitting an art budget--Ahmanson inspects the building--Ahmanson: "Where do we go next?"--Public response.
Criteria for Home Savings designs--Developing a formula--Desire for flexibility--Importance of function--Problems of construction--Obstacles: city planners, bureaucrats--Role of subordinates--Art and landscaping--Costs--Use of stained glass--Use of ceramic tiles--Favorite Home Savings building: Hollywood--Mosaics--Choosing a design--Preparatory research--Other Home Savings buildings.
Durability of buildings--Self-criticism of Home Savings designs--Payment for designs--Other work for Ahmanson--Commission for mosaic mural at Detroit Public Library--Commission for mural at Notre Dame University Library--Use of granite--Building the mural, in Minnesota--Matching colors and granite--Attaching the granite: using pins--Seeking an overview.
Examining the design from atop a water tower--Checking the details--Moving the cut pieces from Minnesota to Indiana--Dedication ceremonies--Personal satisfaction and public response--Cost and university fund raising--Details and colors--Mural for dome of National Shrine, Washington, D.C.--Design problems--Computerized cartoons--Mural for a side chapel--Other artists working in mosaics--Ravenna Mosaic Company--Costs and fees.