Arts / Galleries

Texas’ Most Iconic Art Dealer Dies in Houston — Remembering Meredith Long, a Pioneering Champion of American Art

An Era Ends Forever

BY // 06.04.20

As you read this, one of the country’s greatest art dealers has just passed on. No, he was not based in New York, or even Los Angeles. Meredith J. Long died Wednesday, June 3, 2020 in Houston.

Long made his mark beginning in mid-century Houston, shaping his adopted hometown into a cultural capital via a gallery where 19th- and 20th-century American art, tremendously undervalued at the time he opened in 1957, was shown to be the equal of the French Impressionist and School of Paris painters, in vogue during this earlier era.

Born in 1928, Long was among a handful of post-war gallerists who pioneered the then-nascent field of American art.

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George Inness’ Landscape, 1877, at Meredith Long & Company. Inness was one of the calling cards of the gallery, and a personal favorite of the dealer.

All those now ensconced in the annals of art history hung on the gallery walls of Meredith Long & Company: George Inness, John Singer Sargent, George Bellows, and Mary Cassatt to Kenneth Noland, Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella, Nancy Graves and Helen Frankenthaler.

Closer to home, Texas modern and contemporary painters were also part of the blue-chip gallery’s stable, including most notably, the surrealist/color-field talent Dorothy Hood, as well as landscape master William Anzalone, realist Sarah Lamb, and abstractionist Brian Portman.

So correspondingly, did the collectors flock, with Meredith Long gallery fueling patronage too to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and its destined-to-be outstanding department of American art.

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From his eponymous River Oaks gallery address, Long reigned as a principled power broker, cultural leader and philanthropist for more than 60 years, as well as serving nationally on the board of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art (unheard of at that time for an art dealer).

Along with his wife, Cornelia Cullen Long, the gallerist shaped the Texas Heart Institute; the Alley Theatre; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in ways grand and personal, as well as supporting innumerable conservation causes.

Cornelia and Meredith Long cut a rug at the Alley Theatre Ball, 2007. (Courtesy Alley Theatre)

The latter passionate pursuit related to Long’s acumen in all things hunting and fishing. These recreations were in turn connected to his gallery,  and its long-standing exhibition history of 20th-century sporting artists, beginning with the standard-bearer, watercolorist Jack Cowan, as well as the following generation, Al Barnes and Herb Booth.

A Role Model and Mentor

All of the above you’ll read about in the coming days as tributes come pouring in for Mr. Meredith Long.

But for this writer, ML (as he was called by the tight-knit band of us who worked at Meredith Long & Company), the imposing art dealer was an exacting role model who impacted my own life.

MFAH director Peter Marzio receiving a donation check from Meredith Long, representing the Houston Art Dealers Association, April 1984.

His dry wit, patrician intelligence, high standards, and sense of decency came together to comprise a vivid personality that 30 years later remains in my mind as one of the most unique individuals I’ve ever known.

Later on, Long and the gallery were magnanimous and supportive of both PaperCity magazine, and stepped up as a donor to the book, Texas Artists Today.

Others remembered Long’s role in shepherding them into the art world.

Artnews Top 200 Collector Lester Marks told PaperCity, “Meredith was an impeccable, admirable man who gave me some of my first sips of art — Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, John Alexander, Dorothy Hood, Charles Schorre.”

“I was a newbie and Meredith was the great master, but he and [daughter] Jenny [Long Murphy] were always friendly and always kind.”

“There will never be another Meredith Long,” — Lester Marks

With Long’s death, the 63-year old gallery closes forever, and so concludes a lengthy, significant chapter in Houston history, as well as that of one of America’s most legendary dealers.

Read an insider view of life at Meredith Long & Company here and the dealer’s obituary here.

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