With a personality that could swing from charming to cantankerous in the blink of an eye, Gordon Woodside presided over his art gallery through...
With a personality that could swing from charming to cantankerous in the blink of an eye, Gordon Woodside presided over his art gallery through four incarnations and a sweep of artists that included William Ivey, Louis Bunce, Carl and Hilda Morris, Paul Horiuchi and William Cumming. Since 1961, he could often be found behind the desk or trailing a client through the gallery, tossing out opinions on paintings, politics or any other subject that came up, usually with a dog lolling nearby.
Mr. Woodside died Monday at Virginia Mason Medical Center, after suffering a stroke July 1. He was 80 and is survived by Donald Teichman, his partner of 57 years.
In the early days of his career, Mr. Woodside had a flair for publicity and fun. His parties and shenanigans were fodder for columnists and society reporters. Mr. Woodside was once arrested shortly after midnight with his friend, Seattle clothier John Doyle Bishop. They were apprehended on Fifth Avenue between Union and University streets, painting a green stripe in the middle of the road, a tribute to St. Patrick’s Day. The officers who caught the pair apparently were amused, but their sergeant was not. The two were cited for damaging property.
“Damaging nothing!” Mr. Woodside told a reporter. “We were decorating.”
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Mr. Woodside opened his gallery in 1961, in a First Hill house at 803 E. Union that reputedly had also served as a rectory, a brothel and a boardinghouse. He claimed that his interest in art dated from his childhood, when his father took him to sit on the camel statues outside the Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park.
In 1977, he sold the house to the Polyclinic and moved his gallery to a former car showroom on Howell Street. At that point, he brought on a business partner, John Braseth, then 21, explaining, “there’s a lot of heavy lifting in this business.”
“John used to be at the gallery when he was 12, sweeping floors and emptying trash,” Mr. Woodside said at the time. “He was always pleasant. He brought in customers. He’s not as abrasive as I am.”
For his part, Braseth was happy to take over the practical part of running the gallery, which was not Mr. Woodside’s forte.
“He was my mentor and educated me about art initially. He was a close friend first and then a business partner,” said Braseth, who runs the gallery now located at 2101 Ninth Ave. “He just wasn’t that interested in the business side of the gallery. He liked working with the artists and encouraging them to challenge themselves.”
The son of an Alberta wheat farmer who moved to Seattle and became a builder, Mr. Woodside was born here in 1927 and studied English at the University of Washington. He served in the Army during the Korean War, later holding down a series of mundane jobs before opening his gallery. He was never shy about offering his opinions on art.
“Start with the Seattle Art Museum,” he said in a 1980 interview. “If I had my way, no Northwest art would be shown there. With 100 galleries in town, it’s redundant for people to go to the museum to see art that’s on display all over. That would also eliminate the constant bickering among artists over who’s in museum shows and who didn’t get in.”
Painter William Cumming began showing at the Woodside Gallery when it first opened and remembers Mr. Woodside fondly. “He was a great guy and too good a guy to be a dealer,” Cumming said. “He just was an ordinary guy; he didn’t really belong in the art world. I don’t like the art world, that’s why I say that.”
Cumming, known for solving disputes with his fists as a young man, said the aggressive side of Mr. Woodside’s personality never came out around him. “People don’t get cantankerous with me.”
Besides his partner, Mr. Woodside is also survived by his brother Sherman of Eugene, Ore. There will be no memorial at Mr. Woodside’s request.
Sheila Farr: email@example.com