America, specifically New York, was not seen as the center for the art world until the twentieth century. Before that, Europe, specifically Paris, was the center of the art world. Artists from all over the world traveled to the City of Lights to train and broaden their artistic scope. With the artists, came many art enthusiasts and patrons who would become famous in their own right, people such as Gertrude Stein.
Then, by the end of the nineteenth century, America began to overtake England as a world power. In doing so, America began to thirst for the next step up the ladder of power. It needed to show and deem itself an artistically rich nation that too had the likes of Vermeer, Rembrandt and Raphael adorning the galleries of its museum.
Capturing the Madness of Art
In Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures, Cynthia Saltzman takes her readers on an in-depth, striking look at the fever that swept across America in needing to bring both famous and well-known objets d’arts to America. As Henry James called it, and David Michaels references it, Saltzman captures “real people, men and women alike, frantic to lay hands on the power and beauty and immortality – the madness, of art.”
It is most interesting to see this madness, this rush for dominance and immortality as a world power through documents and passages that Cynthia Saltzman lays out for the reader in detail. It goes to show that it was not only Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany that hoarded and often more times then not acquired works underhandedly in the name of nationality and pride.
Overall, Saltzman’s book encourages readers to look beyond the image and to see the high-price that some of these old world masters came with as they made their journey to America. It is fascinating to see and learn how major museums and collectors collaborated together to in essence, loot Europe of some of its most prized and well-known works of art.
According to her website, Saltzman holds degrees in both art history from Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. from Stanford. She has also worked as a reporter for Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Saltzman is also the author of Portrait of Dr. Gachet; The Story of a van Gogh Masterpiece. She lives in New York.
Old Masters, New World: America’s Raid on Europe’s Great Pictures by Cynthia Saltzman is available for purchase with ISBN 0670018317 from Viking Adult. It was first published on August 14, 2008.