This volume grew out of a 2013 symposium sponsored by the Frick Center for the History of Collecting. The writers comprise a well-qualified group whose expertise covers the essential disciplines and institutions that inform collecting academia, public museums, college museums, auction houses, art dealers and conservators. They have produced a set of ten informative and well-written essays that provide the reader with a sampling of personalities, acquisition strategies and collections that many Europeans may not know.
Assessing collecting by Americans in any art-historical field promises insights into fluctuations in taste, evolving connoisseurship, the definition of cultural lineage and shifting perspectives of the world. An account of the acquisition of Baroque art is especially interesting since the period in which this art gained traction for Americans (late 19th and early 20th centuries) coincided with the peak influence of John Ruskin’s negative judgements on baroque painting. Furthermore, 20th-century America still bore the weight of its Puritan origins. One wonders, therefore, how works of overt Roman Catholic spirituality, opulent materiality and sheer size ever developed a following.