“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures” – Henry Ward Beecher
I love hearing stories about my family, especially about those who lived generations before me and who I never met. Luckily for me, family history is important to my grandparents, parents, and aunts (I only have 1 uncle but it is important to him too), so between all of them there are plenty of items in our homes that have stories behind them or can be used to start the conversation about those who came before.
There are 2 watercolor paintings my parents have hanging in their house that are beautiful pieces of art in their own right, but are also a part of our family’s history and lore. These paintings are of a naked women and are a little risqué. I don’t remember ever seeing them or hearing about them until my brothers and I were much older. The least “racy” depicts a large flower with a couple in an embrace sitting in the middle – you have to really be looking to notice them. This painting is downstairs in the living room where guests can see it.
My mom keeps the other one upstairs and out of public (and my teenage brothers’) view.
The paintings were done in 1938 by my great-uncle Earl W. Sinclaire in art deco style. One of the things that makes them special is their timelessness – these are beautiful in any era. Uncle Earl was married to my great-grandfather’s sister, Bailie, and was an artist in New York, later moving to Florida with the rest of the family. Most of his work was found in the murals his company “Sinclaire Spray Painting Studio” painted banks and other buildings throughout Brooklyn, New York and Polk County, Florida.
The painting themselves don’t have a super exciting story behind him. Uncle Earl liked to paint naked women in watercolor (some think he was painting his wife), and as far as we know there are 3 of his watercolors left (my mom has 2 and my aunt a smaller one). But, they gave me a chance to ask my grandmother about her family and where we come from, and secretly to get confirmation from her on some of the folktales that I’ve heard (specifically, the alleged mob ties with her father and aunts).
While I didn’t get the confirmation from Meme that our family moved from New York to Florida to evade danger, I spent a wonderful afternoon hearing my grandmother talk about people whose lives shaped mine – without ever knowing me. I think it is important spend time with our parents and grandparents learning the stories and histories of our families so we can pass them down to future generations. I want to know where I come from and what events in life happened to get me here. I hope Meme enjoyed our lunch the as much as I did!