Tamsen Munger has carved out a reputation in the art world as a dealer in aviation and maritime art. She is retiring at the end of the year, and her TamsenMunger Fine Gifts will play host today to a book signing by one of her favorite aviation artists, Robert Taylor. We caught up via e-mail with Munger to talk about her career.
Question: Did anything specific affect your decision to retire?
Answer: There are many reasons that I am retiring, but the most significant is that when my husband passed away I became the managing general partner of his business and suddenly I was running two businesses full-time. My lease for Tamsen Munger Fine Gifts is up January of 2010 and it is time now for me to devote full time to Munger Properties.
Give us a little history about the Tamsen Munger Gallery.
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My father, Carl Nichols, a retired general and veteran of World War II (8th Air Force Army Air Corps) started the business in 1979 and named it Tamsen’s Frame Shop. At that time my husband, Ed, and I were back East while he was stationed at the Pentagon, and when we came back home to Fresno in 1985 I went to work with Dad. Eventually I bought the business from him in 1989 and moved it from Clovis to Fresno in the Pavilion West Shopping Center and changed the name to Tamsen Munger Gallery. In 2003 I moved again to Villiggio Shopping Center and changed the name to Tamsen Munger Fine Gifts.
Did you set out to be a dealer of aviation and maritime art?
Absolutely. When I was young, the artwork we had in our family room was of airplanes. We had aviation art throughout the house – mainly B-17s and B-24s. I heard stories of the Army Air Corps all my life. It was natural for me. Maritime art was more of an addition later in the ’90s.
What are some of your favorite memories?
I have so many memories but the first show with Robert Taylor stands out as one of the best. I remember when I picked him up at the Fresno airport. We were walking out to go to my gallery and Robert was next to me on one side and Pat Barnard, his publisher, was on the other side of me. I thought to myself “I am walking next to Robert Taylor” — it was as if I was actually walking on air — it was a thrilling experience. I had sold his artwork for so many years and he is a legend in the aviation art field. For him to come to Fresno and to my store was and is an honor I will always cherish.
Having shows over the years with Aces from World War II has given me memories of a lifetime. I have such respect for the men and their accomplishments and to talk with them, one on one, is amazing. I have met Joe Foss, Rex Barber, Jim Goodson and many of the Doolittle Raiders, among so many others, and with each man comes an unforgettable story.
The reporter can be reached at dmunro@fresno bee.com or (559) 441-6373. Read his blog at fresno beehive.com/author/donald_munro.