PaperCity Magazine

April 2017 - Houston

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78 "WHAT WAS IT LIKE SELLING AMERICAN IMPRESSIONISTS IN HOUSTON, TEXAS, IN THE 1950S? WELL, YOU DIDN'T HAVE A LOT OF COMPANY." time for more than 20 years. A gifted athlete with many triathlons run, she is the youngest of a brood of seven shared by Mr. Long and wife, Cornelia, as well as the only child from their marriage. The other six, like a patrician Brady Bunch, form a blended family, three each from the couple's previous marriages. Martha has a gift for putting everyone at ease; smart, decisive and down-to-earth, she shares her father's love for canines. During our photo shoot, Huggy Bear, a poodle/ Maltese mix rested in her arms. Martha began at the gallery at age 13, working summers during college. "I answered the phones with Jeanette [Pliner], so I wouldn't be around the lifeguards at the pool too much," she says, "and I returned full-time when I was 27." 15 QUESTIONS FOR MR. LONG Take us back to the beginning. I lived in Missouri until I was about 12, then Austin. I was in law school there and got called up in the Air Force ROTC for the Korean War. I was shipped to French Morocco. I was on my way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and stopped by Washington, D.C. That's when I went to the Corcoran and saw their American art. During that trip, I saw LeRoy Ireland [George Inness expert, author of the artist's catalogue raisonné]. I got there at one o'clock in the afternoon and left at 11:30 at night. While I was in the Air Force, I corresponded with LeRoy, and he encouraged me to go into the art business. So when I came back, I didn't pursue my legal studies very seriously. I opened a gallery at 2825 Rio Grande in Austin, where I had rented a house. I lived in that house with my wife and young son, Beau. That was the first gallery. It was 1953. LeRoy sent a whole group of paintings down there, which I bought. Good paintings. George Innesses. Ernest Lawsons. Theodore Robinsons, Asher B. Durands. I had this gallery that no one came into until I went out and got them. I learned a lot. There was a guy who owned a car wash and, as part of his marketing campaign, mailed new residents a coupon for a free wash. He sent one to George Inness and one to R.A. Blakelock. I opened my gallery in Houston in 1957 in Highland Village. What was it like selling American impressionists in Houston, Texas, in the 1950s? Well, you didn't have a lot of company. I don't think it was a great deal different than it was in New York. That is, they weren't selling there either. We had some pretty good paintings. Several years ago, I bought a Hassam at auction for a client that I originally sold some time in the early '60s. At the time, Hassams were the most expensive: $7,500. Some of them now, such as the flag paintings, are about $10 million. I liked American paintings. I really had a very strong conviction that they were underpriced for what they were, and they were extremely good. We are the only people outside of New York that focused on American art. Eventually, there were a number of people in Houston who collected very good paintings. Martha Long with her Maltipoo, Huggy Bear, at the gallery. Frank Stella's Bene come il sale, 1984. Flanking the Stella wall sculpture, a Jules Olitski painting (left) and a Stella work on paper (right). Mary Cassatt's Heads of Reine and Margot (detail), circa 1900, exhibited at the gallery in 2010 MARY CASSATT: WORKS ON PAPER, MEREDITH LONG & COMPANY EXHIBITION CATALOG, 2010

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