A spellbinding account of the rapacious pursuit of the most exquisite paintings in the world
In the Gilded Age, newly wealthy and culturally ambitious Americans began to compete for Europe's extraordinary Old Master pictures, causing a major migration of art across the Atlantic. Old Masters, New World is a backstage look at the cutthroat competition, financial maneuvering, intrigue, and double-dealing often involved in these purchases, not to mention the seductive power of the ravishing paintings that drove these collectors-including financier J. Pierpont Morgan, sugar king H. O. Havemeyer, Boston aesthete Isabella Stewart Gardner, and industrialist Henry Clay Frick. Packed with stunning reproductions, this is an ideal gift book for art lovers and history buffs alike.
As these two books show, art has long been about business, status and sometimes even the love of art.Old Masters, New World: America's Raid on Europe's Great PicturesCynthia Saltzman. Viking, (352p) In this vividly narrated and highly informative study, Saltzman (The Portrait of Dr. Gachet), a former reporter for Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, examines American collectors like Henry Clay Frick and J. Pierpont Morgan who developed America's great Old Master collections, like those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Banker and railroad magnate Henry Marquand gave 50 Old Masters to the Met, among them Vermeer's Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. Marquand believed in the museum's capacity to educate the public, while Gardner and Morgan modeled themselves after Renaissance patrons. A Gainsborough and Raphael were among Morgan's cultural conquests in a "vast, encyclopedic collecting project." Gardner's passion for Italian Renaissance art and her complicated relationship with Renaissance specialist Bernard Berenson, who arranged for the acquisition of the most important work in her collection, Titian's Rape of Europa, is one of the book's highlights. Saltzman deftly demonstrates that the often highly competitive process and volatile acquisition of "cultural capital" by dealers and their eager employers gives fascinating and important insight into the often fraught fusion of culture and commodity that built world-class American collections. Photos.