Cover image for Great women collectors
Great women collectors
Gere, Charlotte.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : P. Wilson ; New York : In association with Harry N. Abrams, 1999.
Physical Description:
208 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 28 cm
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Format :


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Material Type
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N5200 .G47 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

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This work is devoted to the very few women who, from 1750 to the present, have assembled significant art collections. The authors consider how and why these women collected, and explore the obstacles they overcame to assemble the objects. The book closely examines the characteristics of their collections, many of which can be seen today, sometimes in their entirety, in public museums and galleries.

Author Notes

Charlotte Gere is a London-based specialist in nineteenth-century decorative arts, particularly jewelry.
Marina Vaizey was educated at Cambridge and Harvard universities. She has been an art critic for over thirty years, the last eighteen at the Sunday Times (London). She has been a member of over twenty arts-related committees, has curated several exhibitions, and written a number of books and exhibition catalogues. Vaizey has also edited the Art Quarterly and Review for the National Art Collections Fund in England. She is currently a trustee of several museums and continues to write, lecture, and travel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Two tomes focusing on extraordinary women collectors provide educational and amusing insights into many famous and soon-to-be-well-known heroines, from Joan Crawford and the duchess of Windsor to Katherine Dreier and Gabrielle Keiller. In the more scholarly of the two books, Gere and Vaizey produce a goodly amount of words and a number of photographs to document the past deeds of 35 women (and two men). Though many names have been engraved into museum cornerstones--Isabella Stewart Gardner and Peggy Guggenheim, to name two--here we are introduced to their personalities, direction (or lack of) for collections, and other global pursuits. A few retain world renown; Helena Rubenstein, the cosmetics queen, is memorable for her insistence on quantity and her fascination with eclectic Eastern objects and large jewelry that dwarfed a petite frame. Others are revered locally for their almost singleminded pursuit of art. Still others have remained relatively obscure. Whether endowed at birth with fortune or building wealth from scratch or through marriage, these women collectors, from 1750 to 1997, are now honored in one place. Papi and Rhodes of Sotheby's tend toward more elaborate and more frivolous descriptions of 18 women collectors--with many more color photographs and illustrations. The dozen-and-a-half portraits are divided equally among three types: screen actresses (and a diva), aristocracy, and society. And many names, having appeared in headlines throughout the years, will be familiar; these include Mary Pickford, Ava Gardner, Renata Tebaldi, and Barbara Hutton. The authors delve, as deeply as possible, into the provenance of the baubles; Charlie Chaplin, for instance, bestowed a consolation Maubossin gold-diamond-emerald bracelet on wife Paulette Goddard when she narrowly missed being cast as Scarlett O'Hara. Other facts, most probably, belong to the realm of celebrity watchers; for instance, the duchess of Windsor's artifacts netted $31 million at auction. Underneath the glitz and the glamour lies a well-documented sense of tragedy about lives and lifestyles; a 1992 auction of jewels and artifacts from the Princess von Turn and Taxis, for instance, was forced by the untimely death of husband Johannes. Fun facts for jewelry admirers and trivia buffs. --Barbara Jacobs

Library Journal Review

This groundbreaking volume examines European and American women's roles in patronage of the arts from Catherine the Great through Dominique de Menil. Gere and Vaizey, who write on the decorative and fine arts, respectively, here supply a text that is thoroughly scholarly if not overly stimulating and surprisingly lacking in a feminist interpretation. More than 30 personalities are brought together--including Gertrude Stein, the Cone sisters, and Isabella Stewart Gardner--within chapters such as "Royal Mistresses," "Royal Consorts," "The Decorative Arts," "American Chatelaines," and "Business Women." The discussion of Coco Chanel's life and adventures ranks among the most interesting. The 76 illustrations, 16 in full color, are particularly striking and worthy of note. Accessible to a lay audience, this is recommended for larger public libraries and graduate-level collections on art and women's studies.--Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson Univ., MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Gere (art expert) and Vaizey (art critic) survey women collectors from the 18th century to the present, in short biographical essays beginning with Catherine the Great and ranging through royal mistresses, queen consorts, and aristocrats. Later chapters fluctuate between similar treatment of US women millionaires and thematic groupings of collectors under the headings of decorative arts, Faberge, Impressionism, and surrealism. The first half of the book largely focuses on England (as well as France and Russia), the second on the US. Among the more interesting issues raised to invite further research are the serious interests in botany and natural science linked with art collecting by 18th-century women, and the establishment of numerous private museums by 20th-century US women. Relationships among these collectors provide an interesting light on what affected their collecting. The chatty journalistic style, occasionally gushing, gives a taste of the high life and more than a whiff of scandal. Consideration of the art collected is regrettably superficial, too often reduced to listing categories of objects purchased in profusion. A short introductory essay offers some assessment of the nature of women's collecting tastes. A conclusion is lacking, as are footnotes, but the bibliography allows more exploration of these often fascinating women and their collections. General readers; lower-division undergraduates. J. Oliver; Colgate University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 7
Introductionp. 9
Colour Platesp. 17
I Catherine the Greatp. 33
II Royal Mistressesp. 45
Madame de Pompadourp. 45
Madame du Barryp. 52
III Royal Consortsp. 57
Queen Charlottep. 58
Empress Marie Feodorovnap. 64
Empress Josephinep. 69
IV The Duchess of Portland and Her Circlep. 77
V The Decorative Artsp. 88
Lady Dorothy Nevillp. 90
Lady Charlotte Schreiberp. 92
Alice de Rothschildp. 96
Queen Maryp. 100
Princess Marie Louisep. 105
VI The Spell of Fabergep. 109
Two Danish Sisters
Queen Alexandrap. 110
Empress Marie Feodorovnap. 110
Marjorie Merriweather Postp. 117
VII American Chatelainesp. 123
Isbella Stewart Gardnerp. 123
Mrs Potter Palmerp. 130
VIII Collecting the Impressionistsp. 134
The Americans
Louisine Elder Havemeyerp. 135
Mary Cassattp. 140
The Davies Sisters of Wales
Miss Gwendoline and Miss Margaretp. 141
IX Stars in the Art Worldp. 146
The Steins in Paris:
Gertrude, Leo, Michael and Sarahp. 147
The Cone Sisters of Baltimore
Dr Claribel and Miss Ettap. 150
X Business Womenp. 156
Helena Rubinsteinp. 156
Gabrielle (Coco) chanelp. 163
XI Creators of Museumsp. 169
The Ladies of MOMA
Mrs Abby Aldrich Rockefellerp. 170
Miss Lillie Blissp. 170
Mrs Quinn Sullivanp. 170
Katherine Dreierp. 173
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitneyp. 177
XII The Ladies of Texasp. 182
Ima Hoggp. 183
Dominique de Menilp. 185
XIII Patrons and Collectors of Surrealismp. 191
Peggy Guggenheimp. 191
Gabrielle Keillerp. 197
Bibliographyp. 201
Indexp. 206