Gallery owner Janet Fleisher died

Janet Fleisher, the woman who founded the gallery now called Fleisher/Ollman, died last week. The obit is worth reading, especially if you’re not familiar with the story behind Fleisher/Ollman or with the original Janet Fleisher Gallery. Here’s the obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer. (This link will expire in a few months, so if you are reading this after 2010, …). Here’s the top of the story.

Janet Fleisher in younger days

By Sally A. Downey, Inquirer Staff Writer

Janet Schafer Fleisher, 93, of Elkins Park, who operated the avant-garde Janet Fleisher Gallery near Rittenhouse Square for more than 30 years, died Monday, Aug. 2, at her home.

In 1952, Mrs. Fleisher and a college classmate, Eunice Leopold, opened the Little Gallery on Manning Street in Center City. Six years later, the women opened Gallerie Philadelphia on the Left Bank in Paris. The Inquirer reported in 1958 that the dual locations “makes it possible to sell American paintings in France and French paintings in America.”

Shipping art abroad was not without its difficulties, the women told The Inquirer, especially when they tried to explain Calder mobiles to customs officials.

In 1959, the women were asked to serve on a committee to select paintings by American artists for the International Art Exhibition in Paris.

Clients at both galleries were allowed to purchase art on a layaway plan, and works were priced from $5 to $5,000, including inexpensive watercolors and a Picasso with a four-figure price tag.

By the mid-1960s, Mrs. Fleisher had become the sole owner of Gallerie Philadelphia and the Little Gallery, which eventually moved to 17th Street and renamed the Janet Fleisher Gallery.

In 1970, she hired John Ollman, who had a master’s degree in fine arts, to be her assistant. He became gallery director in 1971. “We worked together on ideas and agreed what direction the gallery was going,” he said.

Both had an interest in exhibiting art by self-taught artists. Mrs. Fleisher was “very forward-looking” and was always discovering new artists on her travels, Ollman said.

“She had a keen eye for emerging artists and was a talented art appraiser,” said her daughters, Jill Bonovitz and Nancy Hellebrand Blood, both artists. …