Posted 11 months ago
Inspired by truthordare's story about assisting others, here is a painting by Lola Sleeth Miller. It is an oil painting on board, 18" x 24" dated 1931. Over a decade ago, from time to time, I assisted, in a small way, the then owners of a local thrift shop which specialized in buying entire estates. I never asked for compensation, I just did it because I enjoyed seeing what they found and considered them to be friends. Sometimes if I made an offer on something, they very kindly worked with me on the price. One day they told me that they had bought a large collection of art, mostly prints, and asked if I would come to their home to advise them on the sale of the collection. They had dozens of very fine prints, collages and just a few oils and watercolors. The deceased had apparently been a very discerning collector. I spent a few hours at their home and advised them on a strategy for selling the collection and offered to assist them as they sold the collection to make certain that their strategy was working correctly. I was very detailed in my instructions. Unfortunately, they either didn't understand my instructions or ignored them and proceeded to sell the collection for a fraction of its true value without consulting me further!
I asked for no fee, as I considered them to be friends, but as I was leaving, they asked me to select one work as compensation for my time. I picked one of the few oils. I had not researched it, had no idea who the artist was, it was pretty dim in the room and the painting was quite dirty, but I liked the frame so I picked this one, not expecting it to be worth anything. It is also one of those paintings which doesn't look like much close up, but is best viewed from a few feet away in very specific lighting. It turned out to be by an interesting and well known California/D.C. artist and worth a few hundred dollars to the right collector. (I just sold the very first ever painting from my collection (not this one) to a descendant of the artist, so had no thought of profit for this painting.)
So, it can still pay in tangible ways to be generous with your time and help without expectation of reward.
From my art collection web site:
Lola Sleeth Miller was born on 24 October 1860 in Memphis, Missouri, a daughter of Sterling Lynn McDonald and Electa Summerlin. Sterling was employed as a farmer in 1860 and was the Scotland County, Missouri County Clerk in 1870. There seems to be confusion about Lola's birth date and place of birth, but her DAR application gives her birth date and place of birth, and would likely have been completed by her, personally. This is further supported by the 1860 and 1870 Federal censuses of Scotland County, Missouri, though the 1860 census was taken a few months before she was born. Lola was married to Francis V. "Frank" Sleeth by 1880, and was married to Spencer Miller on 25 June 1931 at Bishop's Stortford, County Herts, England, the Miller "ancestral seat". Lola is listed in the 1880 census with Frank Sleeth, who was 15 years her senior. Frank was employed as a traveling salesman, and they were living as boarders in the home of a retired minister in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
The Sleeths resided in San Francisco from 1892-1899 where Lola studied at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute under Douglas Tilden. She later studied under James McNeill Whistler at the Academie Julian in Paris and also under Fredrick MacMonnies and Emil Carlson. Lola can be found in every Federal census from 1870 through 1930, except for the 1900 census. She may have been out of the country studying at that time. She was Director of Fine Arts at the Cathedral School for Girls in Washington D.C. from 1901 through 1931, according to a genealogy of the Miller family. The Cathedral School for Girls was founded in 1900, so Sleeth was an early member of the faculty. Her first husband died in New York City in 1901, according to the Miller family history mentioned above, so the Sleeths may have resided there briefly before Lola moved to Washington, D. C. and assumed her place at the Cathedral School for Girls. She was a teacher, and painter in oils and watercolors, and sculptor in stone, for which she is perhaps best known. She exhibited at the California Building at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, at the San Francisco Art Association 1893-1898, and at the California International Mid-Winter Exhibition in 1894. She exhibited in Washington, D.C. by 1910 where she showed her work at the Society of Washington Artists of which she was a member. She was also a charter member of the Arts Club of Washington, and a member of the Washington Watercolor Club, San Francisco Art Association, San Francisco Sketch Club, and Laguna Beach Art Association. According to San Francisco's Sunset Magazine, Volume XII, November 1903 to April 1904, she was "one time president" of the San Francisco Sketch Club, "successful in New York with her portrait work", and head of the Art Department in the National Cathedral School. The article also noted that one of President Roosevelt's daughters was her student. Lola's work is part of the collections of several Washington, D.C. museums and institutions. Marble busts by her are held by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Constitution Hall, and the Cathedral Foundation. A bust of Martha Washington by her is in the collection of the Valley Forge Museum and was used as the model for the one cent stamp. She is mentioned in Davenports Art Reference and Price Guide, Artists of California 1786-1840 by Hughes, The Artists of Washington D. C. 1796-1996 by McMahan, Dictionary of Women Artists by Pettys, Index of Artists by Mallett, Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers by Fielding, Who Was Who in American Art by Falk, and other art reference works. I have found indications that she periodically traveled to California in the 1920s to paint, while living in Washington, D.C. She is considered by some to be a California artist, but as she spent much of her professional career in Washington, D.C., I am including her on my Other Artists page.
This is a very challenging painting to display. When viewed closeup or in the wrong light, it just appears to be a jumble of colors. But, when viewed in bright light from 8-10 feet away, the jumble comes together into a striking painting. My photograph does not do it justice. You may need to move back from your monitor to get an idea of what this painting looks like at its best. This greatly complicates displaying it, and I had to try a few spots to find one that puts it at an acceptable angle, when the lighting is correct. This must have been tough to paint. Sleeth was towards the end of her career, so maybe she did this one to challenge herself. I suspect that it is a California scene, or could be from her European honeymoon.
The Millers moved to California about 1933 and Lola continued to work as an artist there. Lola died on 24 April 1951 in Laguna Beach, California.