Top of this page: Oscar Van Young. Laundresses, 1938, oil on canvas, 40 x 28 inches
In Seattle’s present gallery scene one art dealer — Frederick R. Holmes — has stood out as the leader in introducing collectors to the paintings of early to mid 20th century Modern and Post War artists. His most important accomplishment at his eponymous gallery is the rediscovery of Walter Quirt [1902-1968]. Reviewing Sidney Janis’ book, Abstract & Surrealist Art in America, we see a painting by Quirt opposite the page featuring one by Jackson Pollock. Janis described Quirt as “a maker of a new world.” That new world was rediscovered in 2015, when Holmes and his colleague Travis Wilson launched the rediscovery exhibition, “Walter Quirt: Revolutions Unseen.” It was the artist’s first show in thirty-seven years. As the exclusive representative of the estate collection, Holmes has since produced several exhibitions of the artist’s work — long privately held out of public view by the family. In 2017 he mounted the most comprehensive retrospective, “Walter Quirt: A Science of Life.” The next year, he followed up with another important exhibition, “Walter Quirt/Rolph Scarlett: Missing Pages,” which examined the long-obscured legacies of these two critical contributors to the canon of American modernism. Holmes’ most recent discovery, exhibited at the end of 2021, is the estate collection of the figurative expressionist painter Oscar Van Young [1906-1991].Since opening in the city’s Pioneer Square in 2013, Holmes has been producing important exhibitions focused on significant artists from around the country — yet he has remained acutely aware that Seattleites have long been drawn to portrayals of realism found in nature of the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Art Museum is currently tackling this ongoing duality in the public’s interests, underscored in its first exhibition of 2022, “New York to Seattle: Case Studies in American Abstraction & Realism.” The show recognizes that even though most Northwest artists adopted realism, the city has in parallel been home to many significant artists of the avant-garde. The show reminds us that in the mid 20th century Mark Tobey and Morris Graves were lauded nationally as the great mystics of the Northwest. The museum has also shown Jacob Lawrence, who taught at the University of Washington. Seattle also boasts a host of impressive Japanese American modernists deserving national recognition. Holmes’ offerings continue to include early to mid 20th century modernists whose paintings range from completely non-objective expressionism (including color-field painters of the early 1960s through the 1980s), to artists whose imagery merged identifiable subjects with abstraction and surrealism. This stylistic range is consistent with the young regional Contemporary artists he represents.
As Holmes enters his fortieth year in the art business in 2022, he is often asked about his background. He is fond of replying, “Let’s just say I’ve worn many hats!” That millinery procession began in 1982 with Hanson Galleries in Carmel, California, where he was Gallery Director until 1995. He was then recruited to Hong Kong as Director for the editions publisher Vincent Lee Fine Arts, and returned to the U.S. as its President of Publishing and Marketing. In 1998, he was again recruited by an edition publisher, this time for the American sculptor, Frederick E. Hart [1943-1999], where he was liaison to galleries throughout the country exhibiting Hart’s sculpture. This role gave him an opportunity to work with a wide variety of galleries, public art and cultural institutions, and view art in every major city. In 2009, he took time off to explore museums and other cultural sites in Italy, France, and Spain. Upon his return the next year, he was recruited by The Weinstein Collection in San Francisco, well known for representing the estates of the early non-objective painter, Rudolf Bauer [1889–1953] and the surrealists Gordon Onslow-Ford [1912–2003], Enrico Donati [1909–2008], and Gerome Kamrowski [1914–2004]. The gallery also featured significant collections by Roberto Matta [1911-2002], Rolph Scarlett [1889–1984], Jimmy Ernst [1920–1984], and Leonor Fini [1907–1996] — as well as the most famous modern masters, including Picasso, Miro, Dali, and Chagall. It was upon this foundation of “wearing many hats” in the art world that he founded Frederick R. Holmes and Company in 2013. Now, Seattle is benefitting from his mission to broaden public awareness of artists whose works call for a closer look and appreciation.