The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age

Written by:Shelley M. Bennett
Category:About the Huntington
Format:350 pages, hardback with 220 illus., b/w and color, 8.5 x 11 in.
Release Date:2013-05-10

Price: $40.00

About this Book



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The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age provides a fresh perspective on the complicated mix of public and private motives and models that characterized art collecting and philanthropy in America in the early twentieth century. The author focuses on four remarkable individuals: Collis Huntington, who started out as a peddler and went on to found a railroad empire; his second wife, Arabella, a woman of great intelligence and taste; her son, Archer, who devoted his life to creating and supporting museums; and Collis’s nephew, Henry E. Huntington, who built up an extraordinary foundation and then gave it to the public as an enduring legacy.


About the Author
Shelley M. Bennett received a doctorate in art history from UCLA and, after a brief career in academia, joined the staff of the Huntington for a thirty-two-year tenure, serving as curator of European art and then as senior research associate. She curated and supervised thirty-five exhibitions as well as contributing to and overseeing the publication of two landmark catalogues 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.


Review in Fine Art Connoisseur, May/June 2014


 "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, Princeton


“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."  Stanley N. Katz, Princeton

“A rigorously researched study of what must be one of America’s most exceptional collecting families, . . . their varying tastes, cultural ambitions, multiple philanthropies, and innovative institutions.”—Neil Harris, University of Chicago


More on this Gilded Age family saga

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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