Artist Sally Kriner

by Rachel Perry
photo by George Bredewater

Artist Sally Kriner, despite her diminutive size and ninety-four years, likes to paint on fairly large canvases. Pointing to a 30” X 36” partially finished painting of lilacs she commented, “It’s fascinating how painting keeps your mind busy. Some days I get so involved, I forget to have lunch.” Another equally large iris composition work-in-progress rests on an easel nearby. “I like to work on two paintings at once, in case I get stumped on one of them,” she chuckled.

Judging from her artwork displayed “salon style” in her studio, Sally Kriner has effectively solved any painting problems that have stumped her. Ranging from still life florals to landscapes, the pieces are aesthetically pleasing in color and composition.

A long life of painting has no doubt contributed to Mrs. Kriner’s accomplished skill with brush and palette. Born the oldest of nine children in Bradford, Ohio, Sally’s dad worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. When the company started consolidating in the early 1920s, the family was transferred to Indianapolis.

“I guess when I was a child, with that many kids, my mother would sit us around a table on bad or snowy days and we were all supposed to draw something,” she recalled. “And I learned to sew and dabble in creative things. I was making my own clothes when I was fourteen. And designing them, really. I took a course in interior design and a course in jewelry making, and finally hit oil painting.” She attended some classes with Harry Davis at the Herron Art Institute.

Meanwhile, her personal life took a turn which altered Sally’s agenda. “I had a date with a dental student and we took a taxi to the movies,” she said. “People didn’t have cars years ago. If we went any place, we’d take a taxi or a bus. And we were in an accident. Someone hit us broadside at 30th Street and Meridian. I had a big gash in my arm and on my breast and my clothes were torn. There was blood everywhere.

“Leo (Kriner) had just gotten out of law school and was working for a firm that represented the taxi company. So when he called on me to settle the suit and offered me $50, I told him I wanted to wait awhile before I signed a release. They finally sent another adjustor and he offered me $75. I still thought there was no rush and they finally asked me to come into the office to talk to the boss. He offered me $100 and I thought it was a good deal so I settled. Back in 1932 that was a lot of money! Everything was 10 cents a pound.

“One of my friends was going with another lawyer in the same building. I told her I thought Leo was pretty cute so she fixed me up with a date. Leo and I went together for seven months and got married. It was just love at first sight.

We were married 64 years.” Leo, who died in 1997, and Sally raised two daughters, and now Sally keeps track of fifteen great-grandchildren.

Coincidentally, Leo’s father, William Kriner, was a sculptor who worked on the Soldiers and Sailor’s Monument in Indianapolis. He had immigrated to St. Louis from Germany, and moved in with Leo and Sally and their family. “It was because of him that I actually became an artist,” Sally explained. “My youngest daughter had some talent in drawing and I wanted him to teach her. So I went to the art store and picked up art materials and thought they’d get along. But he wasn’t very diplomatic and they didn’t set too well with one another.

“I had all this material left,” she continued. “I got so interested in it that I want to Indiana University and took another course in art. George Smith was the instructor. He was very kind and could solve all your problems.”

Mrs. Kriner also studied with Curry Bohm (1894-1971) and V.J. Cariani (1891-1969) at the Eastside Art Center. She attended workshops and painted with other such notable artists as Leota Loop, Marilyn Bendell and Emile Gruppe. A member of the Brown County Art Guild, she has exhibited with the Indiana Artists Club and at the annual juried Hoosier Salon exhibitions throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

When the Kriners purchased a house in Brown County, Sally befriended the late artist Marie Goth (1887-1975), and helped the elderly artist with daily errands and appointments. “I was very good friends with Marie,” she said. “She did my portrait and gave it to me. I was the only person that Marie Goth and V.J. Cariani sponsored for acceptance into the Brown County Art Guild.” Sally’s portrait by Marie Goth hangs in a place of honor in her living room.

Although she did not actually study with her, several of Marie Goth’s painting habits were adopted by Sally. “She taught me to keep my palette clean,” she admitted. “Also, I don’t throw paintings away, even when I don’t like them, because I always think I can go back and fix them.”

About her motivation to keep painting, there is no question. “I don’t really paint for other people,” Sally Kriner stated. “I paint for myself. I’m still learning….”

To view and/or purchase artwork by Sally Kriner, visit the Brown County Art Guild at 48 South Van Buren Street in Nashville. The Guild can be reached at 812-988-6185 or <>.