Press Release - International Author Tour For The Art of Wealth Kicks Off April 10

April 02, 2013


Groundbreaking book on the Huntington family in Gilded Age America

Available in bookstores May 1
Complete PDFs now available for press


Press kit

Above right: Shelley M. Bennett. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.


SAN MARINO, Calif. —An author tour for The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age, by Shelley M. Bennett (May 2013, Huntington Library Press), which will stop at about a dozen venues on both coasts of the United States and in London, kicks off on April 10 with two talks at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Bennett speaks at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, in Friends’ Hall at The Huntington. [Editors Note: Seating at both events is fully reserved, but reporters interested in covering should contact press officers listed above.]


Bennett then travels to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the New York Historical Society (for an event co-hosted by the Frick Collection); and the National Portrait Gallery, London, among other venues.


Jacket reviews by noted authors and historians describe The Art of Wealth as “fascinating,” “rigorously researched,” and a tale “to rival anything dreamed up by Edith Wharton or Henry James.” 


Providing powerful new insights into the collecting and philanthropy of the Huntington family during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the book examines the life of four Huntingtons: Railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington (1821–1900); his widow, Arabella (1850–1924); her son, Archer (1870–1955); and Collis’ nephew Henry Edwards Huntington (1850–1927), who subsequently married Arabella and went on to create the institution bearing his name.


Bennett’s research led her to turn-of-the-century sources that had never been investigated before. With more than 200 illustrations, many published for the first time, The Art of Wealth challenges much of the previous literature on the four principal characters, particularly Archer and Arabella.


An art historian by training, Bennett writes sweepingly about the Huntingtons’ art acquisitions, the large and lavish homes they purchased and built, their luxurious travel, and, ultimately, the desires of each of them to leave something significant behind. The book reveals riveting details about Arabella’s monumental rags-to-riches rise and American high society’s unwillingness to accept her into that world; Henry and Arabella’s prenuptial agreement; and the extent to which Henry, and his uncle Collis before him, worked to please Arabella, the woman at the center of it all.  

[Editors Note: For PDFs, review copies, seating for author tour, and interviews, please contact The Huntington’s communications office.]

Book tour
United States
April 10 – The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
April 29 – The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
May 1 – The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

May 2 – The Frick Collection, New York, NY
May 4 – Hispanic Society of America, New York, N.Y.
May 16 – Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn.
June 6 – Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Calif.
June 15 – Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, Calif.
United Kingdom
May 8 – Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London
May 9 – National Portrait Gallery, London
May 13 – The Wallace Collection, London

Jacket reviews
“A fascinating account of one of the great plutocratic and philanthropic dynasties of gilded age America. Across three generations, the Huntington family—Collis, Arabella, Henry and Archer—were entrepreneurs and investors, conspicuous consumers, and energetic collectors. They were also munificent benefactors in New York City and in Southern California; they were pioneering in the legal structures they created to give effect to their generosity; and their private lives were as complex and intricate as their finances. Here is a true account of American riches to rival anything dreamed up by Edith Wharton or Henry James.”            


        —David Cannadine, Dodge Professor of History, Princeton University and author of Mellon: An American Life (2006)

“A rigorously researched study of what must be one of America’s most exceptional collecting families. Collis, Arabella, Archer, and Henry E. Huntington together constituted an amazing quartet of hunters and gatherers. Documenting their extraordinary string of art purchases, Shelley Bennett has put together a meticulous account of their varying tastes, cultural ambitions, multiple philanthropies, and innovative institutions.”  


        —Neil Harris, Preston & Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus of History and of Art History, University of Chicago

“This thoughtful and impeccably researched volume gives new meaning to the notion of nouveaux riches. The saga of the dynasty founded by Collis P. Huntington, a penniless easterner who made good in the gold rush and the “Railroad Era,” is recounted with surprising honesty but also with a convincing sympathy for what this family accomplished as collectors, builders, and donors. The volume’s carefully selected and beautifully reproduced images convey the complexity, depth, and breadth of the good taste of Collis, Arabella, Henry, and Archer Huntington. This deeply serious book will interest anyone curious about the relation of wealth to high culture in twentieth-century America.”        


        —Stanley N. Katz, Director, Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies

About the Author
Shelley M. Bennett received a doctorate in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles, and, after a brief career in academia, joined the staff of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens for a 32-year tenure, serving as curator of European art and then as senior research associate. She curated and supervised 35 exhibitions and also contributed to and oversaw the publication of two landmark catalogs of the collections, British Painting at the Huntington and French Art of the Eighteenth Century at the Huntington. She has also taught at the California Institute of Technology for more than two decades and has published widely on British art and collecting in America.

About the book
The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age
Publication date: May 1, 2013
368 pages, with 226 illus., 8.5 x 11 in.
ISBN: 978-0-87328-253-6
$40 hardcover
Huntington Library Press
1151 Oxford Rd. San Marino, Calif.  91108 USA 


CONTACTS:  Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140,
                        Susan Turner-Lowe, 626-405-2147,  


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[EDITOR’S NOTE: High-resolution digital images available on request for publicity use.]

About the Huntington Library Press
Established in 1920, the Huntington Library Press [Add hyperlink] is one of Southern California's oldest book publishers. Its current publishing agenda includes a quarterly journal for scholars and a mixture of scholarly books, conference papers, exhibition catalogs, facsimiles from its collections, and visitor publications. These are distributed worldwide. The Huntington also issues books in cooperation with other publishers in the United States, England, and Japan.

About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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