Call for Papers – The International Gilded Age Art Market

Application Deadline: September 3, 2022

Colnaghi Foundation will host a conference on the international Gilded Age art market on Saturday 5th November, 2022, exploring the complexities of the art market at this period, the high-profile market for Old Master and historic British paintings, as well as the trade in decorative arts, particularly French furniture, and oriental porcelain, which remained of fundamental importance to firms such as Duveen’s. Contributions are also encouraged from scholars working on the markets for Impressionist and early Modernist Art, Salon and Barbizon painting and contemporary art, which in many cases formed an important overlapping area in the businesses of many dealers, such as Knoedler who moved between Old Masters and contemporary art, as well as the role played by print-selling and the sale of drawings in underpinning picture dealing. While the main focus will be on European art, proposals for papers on dealers whose businesses involved non-Western art, African, Oceanic, or Latin American art, are strongly encouraged.

While the primary focus will be on New York, London and Paris – the three art-market centres of the Gilded Age – contributions are welcome from those working on dealers located in Berlin, Venice, Florence and Rome, which were also significant in the late nineteenth century. Other themes to be considered would be the role of expert advisers acting as intermediaries between dealers and collectors, such as Bernard Berenson and Robert Langton Douglas; and the relationships between dealers, collectors and museum curators such as Wilhelm von Bode or William Valentiner, who also played a vitally important advisory role for private collectors. Lastly, themes which have been little studied include the financing of the art market and the role played by architects, interior decorators, liners and luxury hotels in servicing and facilitating art transactions. Many of these transactions are charted in the important surviving dealer archives, such as Colnaghi’s at Windmill Hill, Waddesdon Manor, the Agnews archive at the National Gallery, London, and the extensive records at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles which include Duveen’s, and Knoedler’s archives.

This conference will bring together international scholars researching the history of the art market, and promote scholarly collaborations between dealers’ archives and those held by public institutions in Europe and America. We hope it will provide a platform for new unpublished research which will feed into the forthcoming Colnaghi Studies Journal, to be published in March, 2023. Proposals of under 300 words are invited – by the deadline of September 3rd – for presentations of 30 minutes, on any aspect of the art market from 1880 to 1940. In particular, we welcome themes relating to the history of Colnaghi, its principal rivals or associates.Art Dealing in the Gilded Age will be held at Colnaghi London, and will also be available to watch digitally. For more information and to send in proposals, get in touch below. We look forward to hearing from you!

The Colnaghi Foundation Team

Click here to apply via email.


1880 – 1940

The years between 1880 and the outbreak of the Second World War were a golden age of international art dealing. As a result of the break-up of the important collections of the European aristocracy and the rise of a new plutocracy, both with unprecedented buying power and a great appetite for art, extraordinary masterpieces came on to the art market in a way not seen since the Napoleonic era.

Many of these, including Titian’s Rape of Europa, ca. 1560–62, found their way across the Atlantic to collectors such as Isabella Stewart Gardner, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Mellon, and Arabella and Henry Huntington, whose collections were either turned into private museums, or, in the case of Andrew Mellon, P.A.B Widener and Samuel Kress, laid the foundations of the extraordinary US public museums. This process was facilitated by the expertise and salesmanship of the eminent dealers of the Gilded Age, most famously Joseph Duveen, with galleries in New York, London and Paris. London-based Colnaghi, and their American associates Knoedler, played a crucial role in the development of Frick and Andrew Mellon’s collections; Agnews were pioneers in promoting British eighteenth-century art and sold masterpieces to Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, Lord Iveagh and J Pierpont Morgan; other dealers, such as the Wertheimers, Arthur Sully, the Wildensteins, and, in Paris, Charles Sedelmeyer and Jacques Seligmann were also significant. The traditional narrative has been that of the Anglo-American interchange – American money buying European art – but the reality of this market was more nuanced. Many of the greatest collectors such as the Rothschilds or Calouste Gulbenkian, were based in Europe, and even John Pierpont Morgan kept most of his collection in London, until the change in the import tax laws in 1909. Paris and London remained very important art market centres throughout the Gilded Age. We hope to explore this topic further, in the Art Dealing in the Gilded Age conference.


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