A Strange Business Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Britain

by James Hamilton


A Strange Business Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Britain Synopsis

Britain in the nineteenth century saw a series of technological and social changes which continue to influence and direct us today. Its reactants were human genius, money and influence, its crucibles the streets and institutions, its catalyst time, its control the market. In this rich and fascinating book, James Hamilton investigates the vibrant exchange between culture and business in nineteenth-century Britain, which became a centre for world commerce following the industrial revolution. He explores how art was made and paid for, the turns of fashion, and the new demands of a growing middle-class, prominent among whom were the artists themselves. While leading figures such as Turner, Constable, Landseer, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Dickens are players here, so too are the patrons, financiers, collectors and industrialists; lawyers, publishers, entrepreneurs and journalists; artists' suppliers, engravers, dealers and curators; hostesses, shopkeepers and brothel keepers; quacks, charlatans and auctioneers. Hamilton brings them all vividly to life in this kaleidoscopic portrait of the business of culture in nineteenth-century Britain, and provides thrilling and original insights into the working lives of some of our most celebrated artists.

The Good Book Guide Review

In 1803, a young Turner stood his ground in asking an outrageous 300 guineas for a painting, around £20,000 now. The Royal Academy came out on the painter’s side: ‘he did not see why Turner should not ask for such prices as no other persons could paint such pictures’ Art and business have always had a close inter-relationship, and in Victorian times, old money and newly made industrial wealth displayed status by commissioning work and amassing collections. This meant that old trades and practices underwent rapid transformations, sometimes for the worse – mixing paint was no longer the job of studio apprentices, but new manufacturing process were unreliable: early Reynolds portraits notoriously lost trueness of colour due to poor materials. One subject, Sir Walter Blackett, wrote of his faded portrait: Painting of old was surely well designed / To keep the features of the dead in mind, / But this great rascal has reversed the plan, / And made his pictures die before the man. This is a fascinating look at the nitty-gritty behind the scenes of thriving and surviving in the art world.

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781848879249
Publication date: 07/08/2014
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781848879249
Publication date: 7th August 2014
Author: James Hamilton
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 400 pages
Genres: History,
Categories: Social & cultural history, Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900,

About James Hamilton

James Hamilton is an art historian and biographer. Formerly Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford, he is University Curator and Honorary Reader in the History of Art at the University of Birmingham. He organized and wrote the catalogue of the exhibition 'Turner and the Scientists at the Tate' (1998), and his biography of Turner was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Award.

More About James Hamilton

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