Hey 19

November 24, 2013 § 11 Comments

The proprietor (right) with his key advisor, the art historian William W. Whitney in 1996.

The proprietor (right) with his key advisor, the art historian William W. Whitney, in 1996.

AMAZINGLY ENOUGH, November 19 marked the 19th anniversary of the opening of the Thomas Reynolds Gallery. What was envisioned as a six-week exercise in following your bliss has led to the creation of a wonderful community of artists and collectors over almost two decades.

“No great venture was ever launched on a good night’s sleep,” says the inscription in the first gallery guest book. We must have been giddy from the fervor and the paint fumes. “It’ll never work,” an architect friend had assured us. But something about this little Victorian residential space worked in spite of itself.

Thanks for the encouragement and appreciation and support. Mark your calendar: There’ll be a big party this time next year!

Our artistic corner

June 10, 2013 § 3 Comments

The Night Was All Around, Soft and Quiet | Joan Longas

The Night Was All Around Soft and Quiet, 2013 | Joan Longas

A MESSAGE arrived on the gallery Facebook page:

“My name is Joan Longas and I’m a painter from Barcelona, Spain,” it said. “I just thought of sharing my last painting with you. It’s from my visit to California last summer, and from the pictures I took on June 20 and 21. This is a corner that I particularly like.”

We responded to thank him for sharing the image, which is now a matter of history, since the gallery’s longtime neighbor Johnny Rockets has closed. He wrote back:

“I will miss Johnny Rockets next time I visit San Francisco. The painting I mailed to you before was the third one of that same corner, from three different years. For some reason I loved it from the minute I first saw it. Perhaps the yellowish color of the facade, and the way the building is located that makes no other building show behind.”

Fillmore & Pine, 2012 | Joan Longas

Fillmore & Pine, 2012 | Joan Longas

He added: “If you take a look at the other two versions you’ll see that they are joyous images, like a crisp early summer morning. That’s the way I feel every time I think of it.”

Let Us Rush to See This World, 2009 | Joan Longas

Let Us Rush to See This World, 2009 | Joan Longas

“But I wanted to try a nocturnal version of it,” he wrote. “Nocturnals in the city always offer a festival of lights and colors. Also there is that compelling suggestion hidden behind windows in the evening.”


FOLLOW UP: Joan Longas writes: A few months ago I shared with you three of my paintings of the corner of Fillmore and Pine. This time I’m excited to share with you the invitation of my upcoming exhibition in Paris, in which the last of my paintings on “our” corner will be in display.

Real, but not too real

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Daniel Levigoureux | Une cabine


A few years ago (was it really 18??), I lived in Europe for a few months, and when I came home, I found that my friend Thomas Reynolds had opened a little art gallery just off Fillmore Street. I knew he loved art — we’d gone to many galleries and museum shows together — but I had no idea he was interested in showing it. Nor had he, until the day he walked by a solo MFA-student show at the Academy of Art on Sutter Street, went in, and fell in love with the student’s work.

The graduating student was Veerakeat Tongpaiboon, from Thailand, and his eye-popping paintings displayed his fascination with San Francisco’s streets and vertiginous views in a palette of vibrant blues, jungle greens, blazing oranges, yellows and reds. Reynolds, who so loves his ‘hood that he also publishes the monthly New Fillmore newspaper, eventually leased a small space next door to Johnny Rockets for a six-week holiday season show he called “Painting the Neighborhood.” He had such a fine time being a gallery owner — and got such a good response to Veerakeat’s work — that he kept going.

At first, he showed the work of artists he knew, such as San Francisco’s Mark Ulriksen, who later got very busy creating cover art for The New Yorker, and the late James Stagg, and Francis Livingston, who moved to Sun Valley. When Reynolds began editing California Lawyer magazine (which is where we met), in 1987, Livingston painted the first cover. Reynolds exhibits about a dozen artists now. One of his most inspired ideas was asking them to paint the neighborhood’s Alta Plaza Park; the varied responses led to a highly enjoyable show.

Reynolds tends to favor non-abstract work. The artists in his current show could hardly better convey the broad range of his notion of California realism, from the representational nudes of Stevan Shapona to the almost abstract landscapes of Sandy Ostrau.

The only non-American in the group is Daniel Levigoureux, whom Reynolds discovered when he went to Paris on his honeymoon, in 1990. As he purchased one of Levigoureux’s spare yet evocative Normandy-shore landscapes, Reynolds thought, “Everyone should have one of Daniel’s paintings.” He’s since produced two exhibitions of Levigoureux’s work.

“He’s not a California artist,” Reynolds acknowledges, “but he fits my broad definition of California realism: real but not too real; recognizable imagery with modern influences. With the variety of aesthetics or taste of these artists, this exhibition shows exactly what I’m interested in.”

California Realism” continues through September 29 at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery, 2291 Pine Street (at Fillmore), San Francisco.

The plum like no other

July 14, 2012 § 2 Comments



It all started in the winter of 2010 with a conversation about childhood memories. Mine: While alone in the garden of my great aunties’ midwestern farm, I walked into a vibrant pink, flowering peony — just my height as a five year old. More than likely, I had been drawn to its iridescent glow in the warmth of the midafternoon sun and by the intoxicating scent of its fully flowering ripeness.

Thomas shared his memory of walking out his front door across a small dirt road lined with Methley plum trees — “a plum like no other,” or at least that’s how he had so fondly remembered it. He recounted how, after moving to California, he had searched for Methley plums and inquired at farmers markets. He learned that local growers had not heard of, let alone grown, the plum like no other.

The conversation piqued my interest as a newly ardent urban farmer cutting back 10-foot camellia bushes to favor new plantings of fruit trees. I knew I wanted to plant plums, having struck out on figs, a favorite of mine.

Plums are popular in San Francisco, particularly the Santa Rosa. I was also determined to grow another favorite of mine, the Green Gage plum, and I had recently been told about the local prize of them all, the Beauty, a Japanese plum more red than the purple European variety. They all need about 200 chill hours to bloom and bear fruit. In our mild winters, that’s usually our maximum chill time. Other fruits need 800 to 1,000 chill hours, so we are talking about a special breed. 

By January 2011, Thomas — via the miracle of the Internet — had located a source for the Methley. And as luck would have it, the Methley did have a chill requirement of 200 hours. It was meant to be!

Thomas delivered the Methley to our front porch. Bare root, dry and somewhat bedraggled, it had been on a long trip and needed rest and probably intensive care. As I prepared a soothing compost-enhanced soak for the evening, I told the tree we were both on the line.

I planted the Methley in the ground where it gets the early sun rays in the first part of spring, next to a stand of five-foot Shasta daisies (named for Mt. Shasta and hybridized by Luther Burbank). The Methley bloomed its first spring and I dutifully removed all of the blossoms, encouraging it to continue strengthening its root system, branches and trunk.

This year it was initially full of blossoms, but due to a very late series of rain showers, the Methley set only six plums, and only five made it to turn red.

“Not the right color,” Thomas declared. “It’s not ripe.” Or maybe not the right species, or inadequate growing environment, I feared. Full of performance anxiety, I wondered how I was going to keep it safe for the next couple of weeks while it ripened. By now it was through raining and I headed off the insect droves by applications of Safer soap. But could the Shasta daisy grove send out a strongly competing scent to confuse the predators in the form of birds, raccoons and rats? Just to play it safe, I squirted “Critter Ridder” on the Japanese boxwood on the north side of the bed. And said a prayer.

By the first week of July, continuing to read up on the care and feeding habits of the Methley, I decided to harvest the plums. Early one morning I sat straight up in bed, knowing it was time to gather them. Sure enough, pots had been knocked over on the fence so very close to the plum trees.

Yes! A dark purple! Gary and I tasted one. It was a very different, grape-like, dense texture — jammy, almost. It was delicious, but was it too ripe? How are they supposed to taste?

Later that day, I stopped by Thomas’s gallery to give him half of the tiny harvest. I was ready to tell him my list of triumphs in getting the Methley to harvest, yet prepared to have him sink in despair. It couldn’t possibly be as good as his childhood memory.

Before I could finish telling him of my trials and successes, his hand dove into the basket. A second after he popped the first one into his mouth, he exclaimed: “That’s it — the plum like no other!”

What I’ve learned

January 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

An old friend — a prominent and prosperous lawyer — passed through town a few weeks ago. We had dinner at The Big Four on Nob Hill. I wrote to thank him for a pleasant evening and asked the great man how he would sum up what he had learned in his long and successful life about what really matters, and what advice he could offer.

His reply, in its entirety:

What really matters: Family and friends.
What have I learned: Didn’t take enough risks.
What advice do I have: Take them.

A six week experiment

October 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lafayette Park Light | Veerakeat Tongpaiboon

At his MFA graduate exhibition in 1994, a young painter named Veerakeat Tongpaiboon met Thomas Reynolds, a lawyer-publisher with an interest in art — and in the Fillmore neighborhood. When Reynolds learned the aspiring artist also lived in the neighborhood and featured it in many of his paintings, he rented a small space for six weeks to exhibit Veerakeat’s paintings. That six-week experiment has turned into a long-term partnership.

Read more: “From Thailand With Talent

Love lives on

July 14, 2008 § Leave a comment


WAY BACK in 1990, when we were married in Paris, we saw Daniel Levigoureux’s paintings in a gallery on rue Jacob, on the Left Bank. Gallery hours being flexible as they are, we never managed to find Galerie Philippe Fregnac open again while we were there. But we had a postcard, and the work stayed with us. Finally, three years later, we tracked down Daniel in a small town in the north of France and bought the painting we had treasured on the postcard.

Now, many years later, I have a gallery of my own and things have come full circle. I am pleased to present Daniel Levigoureux’s work in San Francisco.


Success — half a century later

April 30, 2005 § Leave a comment

Henry Villierme: becoming a hot commodity

San Francisco Chronicle

Henry Villierme was on the fast track to becoming one of the new painting stars emerging from the Bay Area Figurative Group in the late 1950s. He was so promising that he took a first prize at a 1957 art exhibition in Richmond while future famed artists Richard Diebenkorn, Nathan Oliveira and David Park received just honorable mentions.

But unlike his contemporaries, Villierme never made that leap to worldwide recognition. Instead, he moved to Southern California to be closer to his wife’s family and raised his four children while earning money in different odd jobs.

“I never really left painting,” Villierme said by phone from his home in Ojai. “I just didn’t show. I was painting to paint.”

Villierme is no longer a no-show. During the last few years, his career has taken off, thanks in part to his agent son Paul and gallery owner Thomas Reynolds.

Read more

Emerging artist: Ken Auster

October 10, 2003 § Leave a comment

Ken Auster | Trinidad Rocks

“I work only in oils,” says Ken Auster, “and my paintings are very juicy, very loose and very of-the-moment.”

Auster believes there are two aspects to painting: the intellectual and the passionate. “You have to think about what it is you’re painting ahead of time,” he says. “Then, when you paint, you can leave your brain at the door. When you’re thinking of other things and not of the painting itself, you create your best works — those that are spontaneous, unpredictable and honest.”

Stuart Katz, a voracious art collector, strolled into Auster’s atudio unannounced in 1996. Katz, who spent years searching colleges and galleries for undiscovered talent, changed Auster’s career with four words: “This is really good.”

Bolstered by Katz’s approval, Auster took transparencies of his work to several San Francisco galleries. Most merely went through the motions, but Thomas Reynolds, owner of Thomas Reynolds Gallery, was impressed with Auster’s style and technique and requested more examples. Still fearing rejection, Auster procrastinated. Fortunately, Reynolds persisted, and the day after he received Auster’s packet he decided to stage an exhibition of the artist’s work. In 1997, “The California Coast” became the first of five sold-out shows.

Lawyers turned artists

February 12, 1996 § 1 Comment

San Francisco Chronicle

It’s a common curse of being a lawyer: the nagging urge to be something else. Though most ignore it, many succumb, often by trying to become the next John Grisham.

But four former Bay Area attorneys are taking a different tack. They’ve become artists, and they’re showing their work at San Francisco’s Thomas Reynolds Gallery — and Reynolds, it turns out, is also a recovering lawyer.

Here’s the surprising news: All four artists are really good.

Not that they weren’t good lawyers, too. Mary Dunlap was one of San Francisco’s most prominent civil rights attorneys. But in 1991, after finishing a high-profile discrimination case against the San Francisco Fire Department, she was exhausted. “I was a workaholic,” she says, “and it got to the point where I needed to do other things that had really been neglected.” She’s still a legal consultant on public interest cases, but most of her time is spent creating colorful monoprints of birds and fish and self-portraits.

Sarita Waite | Bear Cubs, Marin Circle Fountain, Berkeley

Sarita Waite | Bear Cubs, Marin Circle Fountain, Berkeley

Her colleague, Sarita Camille Waite, practiced family law in Berkeley for 17 years until 1987, when she turned to sculpture. Much of her work is small bronze figures, but she’s working now on a fountain for Marin Circle in North Berkeley.

A third artist, Jerome Carlin, founded the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation in 1966. But for the past 25 years, he has painted California landscapes, some of which hang in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jerome Carlin | Rand's View, 1994

Jerome Carlin | Rand’s View, 1994

The fourth in the group is Jody Joseph, former head of the San Francisco Bar Association’s legal services program. Now she paints portraits, landscapes and still lifes in a cubist style.

All but Carlin say they loved practicing law, but for various reasons had to get out. “I had no alternative,” says Joseph. “Otherwise it would have been a half-lived life.”

She’s in good company. Reynolds says a lot of famous artists left the law, including the French post-Impressionist master Paul Cezanne. What made him make the move? Maybe it was the advice from his friend, novelist Emile Zola: “One thing or the other — really be a lawyer, or else be an artist, but do not remain a creature without a name, wearing a toga dirtied by paint.”

Read more: Jerome Carlin: The two sides of my brain

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