Robert Flanary and the Genesis of Holton Studio Gallery

As we frame our new show, Robert Flanary: Seeing All Together, I’ve been reflecting on the great significance Bob has for Holton Studio. It was 24 years—almost a quarter century—ago that I first met Bob. Before we hatched the Holton Studio Gallery, he walked into the shop with a handful of his paintings. We were in Emeryville at that time and used the front end of the wood shop as a showroom for custom framing. Bob was visiting from Spokane, Washington where a friend who had seen our ads in American Bungalow Magazine told him about us. He was looking to order frames for his paintings, but Trevor and I were so impressed with the work that the transaction went in another direction, essentially planting the seed for what was to become the Gallery. Instead of ordering frames, Bob ended up leaving the paintings behind for us to display on our walls and sell on consignment—and of course, we’d frame them, making the frames on spec.

Robert Flanary, self-portrait

Robert Flanary, self-portrait (not for sale)

At the time, we had no idea of the implications of that arrangement: it was a model for an art gallery where the artists didn’t have to provide their own frames. Only in time, as the gallery evolved and got a proper home in a separate storefront across the street from the wood shop, did the value of the arrangement emerge. Despite our mediocre retail location, we found ourselves almost effortlessly growing a roster of expert painters. (Paul Kratter was our second artist; similar story to Bob’s.) We had one other massive advantage, of course: being in the Bay Area, which placed us in the midst of this region’s long and rich tradition of landscape painting, and its living community of painters.

These were the years when the Internet was taking off, so it was a time when our accidental model was particularly valuable and significant: we weren’t just middle men who could be replaced by the shiny new technology. We were contributing something real to the product, and offering not only the harmonious setting of an individually designed and crafted frame for each picture but also a larger harmonious setting for the picture amidst many similarly framed paintings on a common (as well as compelling and uplifting) landscape theme.

In any case, that was how the gallery was born—and Robert Flanary planted the seed!

Last week on the blog I shared the painting from “Seeing All Together” that we’re using for the publicity, “Outcropping.” Below is a sneak peek at another piece, “Sunlight on a Winter Morning.” We framed the 18″ x 24″ canvas in a 3″ wide No. 16 frame in stained quartersawn white oak with 23 kt gold leaf on the chamfered sight edge.

Robert Flanary: “Seeing All Together” opens on February 4—a week from Saturday!—with a reception for the artist. I hope you’ll come!

Painting by Robert Flanary

Robert Flanary, “Sunlight on a Winter Morning,” oil on canvas, 18″ x 24″

Painting by Robert Flanary

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