STRANGE BUSINESS: A Revolution in Art, Culture and CommerceJAMES HAMILTON Book Number: 91400 Product format: Hardback
At the beginning of the 19th century there was a seismic change in the art world as the Industrial Revolution enriched the middle classes who could now afford to become patrons and collectors. The author starts in 1803 with the battle between rival bidders Lord Leicester and Lord Yarborough to acquire Turner's huge early work "Opening of the Vintage of Macon". Turner, a barber's son, showed colossal cheek in pitting the two aristocratic patrons against each other, and the author equates the new economic power wielded by artists with the silhouette of the steam-driven flour mills that now reared up on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge. Soon the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be invited to the drawing rooms of Kensington, and the Royal Academy's annual exhibition would increase in size to meet the popular demand for art as a badge of wealth. It was now conceivable that patron and artists should become friends, as Lord Egremont did with both Turner and the sculptor Francis Chantrey, who made his name with busts of the engineer James Watt. The new breed of collectors were often dealers as well, like the pen and buckle manufacturer Joseph Gillott who owned Constable's "Hay Wain" for only a few weeks before selling it on for a profit of £273. The Royal Academy was a fashionable showcase but some painters, like Benjamin Haydon who eventually committed suicide, dedicated their lives to criticism of its conservatism. The watercolourist John Varley did not need to join, such was the popularity of his modestly-priced potboilers known in the trade as "Varley's hot rolls". To complement the attitudes of patrons, painters and dealers, the book also considers the art business from the point of view of the publisher, curator and spectator. 384pp, colour reproductions.
Published price: £18.99
Bibliophile price: £7.50