Duveen: A Life in Art

Duveen: A Life in Art

by Meryle Secrest


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Anyone who has admired Gainsborough's Blue Boy of the Huntington Collection in California, or Rembrandt's Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owes much of his or her pleasure to art dealer Joseph Duveen (1869–1939). Regarded as the most influential—or, in some circles, notorious—dealer of the twentieth century, Duveen established himself selling the European masterpieces of Titian, Botticelli, Giotto, and Vermeer to newly and lavishly wealthy American businessmen—J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Mellon, to name just a few. It is no exaggeration to say that Duveen was the driving force behind every important private art collection in the United States.

The first major biography of Duveen in more than fifty years and the first to make use of his enormous archive—only recently opened to the public—Meryle Secrest's Duveen traces the rapid ascent of the tirelessly enterprising dealer, from his humble beginnings running his father's business to knighthood and eventually apeerage. The eldest of eight sons of Jewish-Dutch immigrants, Duveen inherited an uncanny ability to spot a hidden treasure from his father, proprietor of a prosperous antiques business. After his father's death, Duveen moved the company into the riskier but lucrative market of paintings and quickly became one of the world's leading art dealers. The key to Duveen's success was his simple observation that while Europe had the art, America had the money; Duveen made his fortune by buying art from declining European aristocrats and selling them to the "squillionaires" in the United States.

"By far the best account of Joseph Duveen's life in a biography that is rich in detail, scrupulously researched, and sympathetically written. [Secrest's] inquiries into early-twentieth-century collecting whet our appetite for a more general history of the art market in the first half of the twentieth century."—John Brewer, New York Review of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226744155
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Pages: 540
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Meryle Secrest has written biographies of, among others, Romaine Brooks, Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark, Salvador Dalí, Stephen Sondheim, and Frank Lloyd Wright, the last available from the Unviersity of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
A Note on Exchange Rates
1. The Chase
2. Bond Street
3. Lady Louisa Manners
4. The Rajah's Pearl
5. The Sound of a Sell
6. Living with Cachet
7. "Spy Maria"
8. The Fay Case
9. The Chase Continues
10. The Blue Boy
11. The Demotte Affair
12. La Belle Ferronière
13. The Disappearing Baby
14. "Keep Alive"
15. "I Cannot Wait"
16. In the Elevator
17. A Proper English Gentleman
18. Rain on the Lawn
Paintings, Sculptures, and Objects Sold or Donated by Joseph Duveen, 1900-1939: A Partial List

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