Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

19 January

Book of the day

roguesgalleryRogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers
Philip Hook
(UK: Profile, 2017; USA: Profile, 2017)

Philip Hook takes the lid off the world of art dealing to reveal the brilliance, cunning, greed and daring of its practitioners. In an anecdotal narrative he describes the rise and occasional fall of the extraordinary men and women who over the centuries have made it their business to sell art to kings, merchants, nobles, entrepreneurs and museums.

From its beginnings in Antwerp, where paintings were sometimes sold by weight, to the rich hauteur of the contemporary gallery in London, Paris and New York, art dealing has been about identifying what is intangible but infinitely desirable, and then finding clients for whom it is irresistible. Those who have purveyed art for a living range from tailors, spies and the occasional anarchist to scholars, aristocrats, merchants and connoisseurs, each variously motivated by greed, belief in their own vision of art and its history, or simply the will to win.

The cast of characters includes Paul Durand-Ruel, the Impressionists’ champion; Herwath Walden, who first brought Modernism into the limelight; Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, high priest of Cubism; Leo Castelli, dealer-midwife to Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art; and Peter Wilson, the charismatic Sotheby’s chairman who made the auction room theatre.

Available in the UK via ‘My Local Bookshop‘ search engine, or via Amazon (Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers)
Available in the USA via Amazon (Rogues’ Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers)

dad-and-sonFacts of the day

19 January

1915 The ‘neon tube’ sign is patented by Frenchman, George Claude.

New Year

People in Finland have an old New Year tradition of molybdomancy, all about telling fortunes. A small amount of lead is melted in a small pan using a small stove before being thrown into a bowl full of cold water. The liquid metal solidifies and the resulting shape of the solid metal is then analysed by candlelight to tell the fortune of a person for the coming year.


Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, was the first person in the UK to buy a Apple Macintosh computer.

Writers birthdays

1639 Noël Alexandre (France)
1737 Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (France)
1749 Isaiah Thomas (USA)
1790 Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom (Sweden)
1798 Auguste Comte (France)
1809 Edgar Allan Poe (USA)
1858 Eugène Brieux (France)
1868 Gustav Meyrink (Austria)
1873 Hans Erich Blaich [Dr Owlglass] (Germany)
1879 Boris Savinkov (Russia)
1887 Alexander Woollcott (USA)
1902 Heinrich Schmist-Barrien (Germany)
1913 Phyllis Flowerdew (UK)
1913 Rex Ingamells (Australia)
1921 Patricia Highsmith (USA)
1924 Jean-François Revel (France)
1925 Nina Bawden (UK)
1926 Libera Carlier (Belgium)
1946 Julian Barnes (UK)
1969 Edwidge Danticat (Haiti)

Jokes of the day

‘As a child I was hit by a meteorite – it had a huge impact on me.’

Cartoon: Wiley Miller, The first writer and editor, CartoonStock

Quote of the day

G K Chesterton, Heretics: ‘A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.’