Oral history interview with Gene Crain, 1999 March 7-May 22
Crain, E. Gene, 1934-
Sheets, Millard Owen
Walt Disney Productions
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 107 pages
Originally recorded on 8 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 13 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hr., 38 min.
Access Note / Rights:
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
An interview of Gene Crain, conducted 1999 March 7-May 22, by Susan Anderson, for the Archives of American Art, in the law offices of Gene Crain, Newport Beach, California.
Crain describes the focus of his collection of some 1000 works of art, and how it grew out of his longstanding relationships with artists Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Rex Brandt, and others. He recalls his relationships with Sheets, Dike, and Brandt at some length, including their feelings for the land as well as their personalities and work. He discusses urban growth, disappearance of the locale and nostalgia in the context of art collecting, and his collection as an important record of a certain time and place. He discusses convenience, climate, and topography as contributing factors to the emergence of the watercolor school as well as other important influences: Pacific rim culture and Far Eastern Art and philosophy; Mexican art and culture; the film industry, especially the Disney Studios; and the federal art projects as a catalyst and support system. Crain discusses the impact of social and economic factors in Southern California during the Depression, contrasting them with harsher conditions in other parts of the country; the development of his eye an aesthetic taste and his patronage of the artists beginning in the early 1960s; the artists' critical standing in the post-World War II period and the "crowding out" of the school by other movements such as Abstract Expressionism and Pop; and the viability of the school in the post-war period, its legacy, and comments on the present market value of the art.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Gene Crain, 1999 March 7-May 22. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Transcript available on line.
Funded by the Orange County Museum of Art Historical Collections Council. 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.
E. Gene Crain (1934- ) is a lawyer and art collector from Newport Beach, California. Full name Ernst Gene Crain. Crain's art collection includes extensive holdings of prominent artists of the California School, a West Coast watercolor movement that arose during the Depression era.
This interview is 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 administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001