Colonial Art Gallery & Co
OUR PROUD HISTORY What is it about human nature that compels us to acquire and collect beautiful objects? For almost a century, The Colonial Art Gallery & Co. has been bringing unique and beautiful works of art to the beginning and most sophisticated collectors. My father, Willard E. Johnson, started the Gallery in 1919. He strongly believed it was important for EVERYONE to experience fine art. To further his dreams, he created traveling Art Exhibitions, which were held in public schools each year. Since the first Exhibition in 1919, the Gallery has shared Old and Modern Masters with over forty million students. His endeavors to ensure access to the Masters, both originals and reproductions, earned him National Recognition as the Father of National Picture Week in 1921. I am very proud to continue the family tradition, which has made this company a success for almost a century. Whether you are a newcomer to the Gallery or a valued friend, I invite you to visit us and see what’s new. Thank you for your interest in our Gallery. Willard E. Johnson, II. President Willard E. Johnson was the son of a farmer in Southern Oklahoma. Mr. Johnson, an educated and well-read man, discovered his interest in the arts while working for WorldBook® Encyclopedia. He worked for WorldBook from 1906 until he went to serve his country in World War I (1915). While abroad, Mr. Johnson had the opportunity to see many of the Old Master and Impressionist paintings he read about in books. It was this exposure which defined his life when he returned to the United States. In 1919, Johnson established The Colonial Art Gallery & Co. in his father’s old home in downtown Oklahoma City. As the Oklahoma oil boom exploded, Mr. Johnson’s business flourished. The nouveau riches’ desire for instant culture was the catalyst for Mr. Johnson to expand his business into objects d’art, antiques, Old Master and European Paintings. In 1921, Mr. Johnson published the Gallery’s first Fine Art Reproduction catalogue which focused on American and European modern art. To further the education of art, the Gallery published "A Guide to Painters and Paintings" by Jean Jarrett Brooks in 1931. In 1939 Mr. Johnson decided that he and the Gallery needed a new home. He moved into Suite 2000 of the opulent Biltmore Hotel. Mr. Johnson used twenty of the twenty-four floors as his gallery. His grand suite also doubled as the gallery’s main showroom and office until his death in 1960. After Willard Johnson’s tragic death, his son, Willard II, continued the family tradition. Willard Johnson, II. was raised in the Biltmore Hotel surrounded by beautiful works of art. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 1956 with his degree in Finance, he followed in his father’s footsteps. In 1961, Willard Johnson, II. expanded the Gallery even further by developing relations with European Galleries such as Gallery Maeght in Paris. The Colonial Art Gallery & Co. quickly became a major source of lithographs by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Miro, Buffet and many more. Willard also studied Fine Art Restoration in San Francisco (1968-1969) followed by post-graduate studies in Fine Art at the Oklahoma City Art Museum (1970). In 1983, Willard Johnson added value to the Gallery’s publishing business with the purchase of Catalda Fine Art, Inc. (New York, NY). The acquisition included Catalda’s vast inventory of over one million prints and copyrights on approximately 1,500 Old and Modern Masters (from Rembrandt to Matisse). In 1990 the gallery's sales director, Robert Meister, capitalized on Japan's interest in the art market. Mr. Meister developed strong relationships with the international auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s. From 1989 to 1991, the gallery successfully realized record prices for their clients. Robert’s interest in Asian Works of Art influenced the Gallery’s collection and services to their clients. In 1990, the gallery began to carry Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan works of art. From 1989 to 1995, The Gallery annually hosted "Clinic Days." During the two-day event, a representative from either Christie’s or Sotheby’s would assist Willard and Robert with appraisals on fine art. Several ‘important’ items have been discovered during the annual event. The Gallery continues to offer free verbal appraisals as a public service.
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