Collecting art in San Francisco since 1974, buying 17th, 18th, and 19th-century American and European paintings, then moving into early California Plein Air paintings and sculpture in 1976, before Ruth Westphal's monumental "Plein Air Painters of California" books were published in 1982 as guides to the important artists. Jeanne and I decided to change our focus to California Modernism in 1989.
Art dealers who handled the California modernism and postwar art genres offered no assistance in educating us as they only wanted to sell the art they had on their walls. We went into one gallery, and we were told every painting we asked about had five holds on the work, and if we wished to leave our name, they would contact us when and if it became available. I told the dealer we weren't looking to buy a car, and we immediately walked out. We decided to educate ourselves as we had with prior art movements. We found an important catalog titled "Painting and Sculpture in California, The Modern Era" by Henry Hopkins, who became one of our mentors. This book provided us with a detailed historical overview of the galleries, museums, influential artists, and events during the evolution of modern art on the west coast.
We focused first on the California abstract expressionist movement. None of the San Francisco dealers specialized in this movement in 1989, so we decided to hold a one-year exhibition in our retail space, changing the exhibition every month. We held solo and group exhibitions showing the works of Edward Dugmore, John Saccaro, George Abend, Thomas Akawie, Ruth Armer, Ernest Briggs, Joan Brown, Frann Spencer, Wally Hedrick, Hayward King, Felix Ruvolo, Erle Loran, James McCray, Gordon Onslow Ford, William Wiley, Peter Voulkos, Sam Tchakalian, James Weeks, William H. Brown and over 100 other artists during 1989 and 1990. We worked closely with writer Susan Landauer as she was writing her thesis on the same subject for her Yale University Ph.D. Susan called me in 1995 from the director's office at the Laguna Art Museum. She told me that if she could raise several hundred thousand dollars for the museum's art acquisitions, they would host an exhibition of the art in her Ph.D. thesis. I committed this amount in artwork from our personal collection during our phone call, and within an hour, she secured her exhibition,
"The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism." Two weeks later, we helped Susan fund the University of California Press for the publication of her book.
We continued our research and acquired artworks by artists who studied at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA) during the 1940s into the 1970s, the "golden age" of the school. We also collected artists who studied at U. C. Berkeley, where an equally important movement evolved thru the relationship several professors at the school had with Hans Hofmann beginning in 1929. In late 1948 Clyfford Still attempted to mimic the CSFA school in New York with Mark Rothko's support, but the school only lasted for a few years.