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David and Jeanne Carlson History

The Carlson's began collecting art in 1974 while living in San Francisco. Since 1966 and throughout the 70s, the Carlson’s were operating a successful business supplying temporary engineering and design personnel to notable high-tech companies in Silicon Valley.


During the 1970s, the Carlsons reflected that so much art was available, and there were few collectors to compete with. San Francisco art dealer John Garzoli was a positive influence on the Carlsons. In addition to John’s impeccable eye for quality, the Garzoli Gallery had a museum-quality art library for research. During this time, the Carlsons felt they could purchase the most significant and best works from his gallery.

For the Carlsons, prices for early California fine art seemed disproportionately low. In the 1970s, the Carlsons would purchase 50 to 100 artworks at a single auction and sometimes even the entire estate of an artist.

Arthur Mathews
"Spring Dance" dated 1917

On one Saturday morning in 1976, the Carlsons purchased a large stunning 52 by 48-inch oil on canvas by Arthur Mathews titled “Spring Dance” and a 40 by 50-inch Armin Hanson later that same day. The Arthur Mathews painting, “Spring Dance,” now resides in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

By 1980 the Carlson’s developed such enthusiasm for art collecting they decided to sell their company to focus full time on their collection. With their expansive art inventory growing at an accelerated pace, the Carlsons opened their first art gallery located in San Francisco in 1982. During this time, California Plein-air paintings were plentiful, but this would change when Ruth Westphal’s monumental book, “Plein Air Paintings of California,” was published in 1982. By the late 1980’s it became more challenging to find great California Plein-air and impressionist works.

In 1989, the Carlsons noticed a post-war abstract painting being sold at the end of a California Plein-air art auction. It had five exhibition labels, and the Carlsons believed that the painting was of extremely high quality with a disproportionally low estimate of only $100 to $200. When David Carlson asked a well-established dealer why the painting was valued so low, the dealer replied that the California abstract artists copied the New York artists and that the painting was worthless. The Carlsons purchased the painting for $100.


After Carlson’s first abstract post-war painting purchase, research on California’s post-war art movement began earnestly. They discovered that the west coast abstract expressionists did not copy the New York artists but that it was a definitive movement with its own unique merit. This first abstract post-war painting purchase would become a watershed moment for the Carlsons.


The Carlsons art purchases shifted entirely to the abstract expressionist market, where they could purchase large masterworks without much competition. During that time, they acknowledged having the entire west coast post-war abstract expressionist market for themselves for the next 10 to 15 years. Throughout the 1990s and still to this day, the Carlsons work with art academic writers, curators, and museums to place this movement into its proper acclaim and perspective.


David and Jeanne amassed an expansive post-war abstract expressionist art collection over the years, and to this day, David is still going strong. Art keeps David young, and although much of the collection is always for sale, he continues to purchase masterpieces from the next up-and-coming and underappreciated movements. David believes that California art may still be one of the best lifestyle investments a collector can make, provided one does their due diligence research.

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