re: Your entire blog is very interesting, I have very little opportunity to read about art collectors. You don’t post the prices you’ve paid for each pieces, not even for the pieces for sale that you’re not interested in. Is it alright to ask why not?
Thank you, OldTimeGentleman, for your message, and for spurring this response. That’s a great question, and I suppose it’s because I tried to share this information once in /r/thriftstorehauls long before I started the blog, and it got down-voted to oblivion for being too expensive. I was probably sharing the information to the wrong audience, but if you would like to know, then I am happy to oblige :) I am not aware of any art collectors who made such information public while they were still alive, but the very purpose of my blog is to give an unprecedented view into art collecting as I am doing it, and you are the first to point out, correctly, that the following information is crucial for understanding:
The first thing I should say is that I am directly influenced by Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, who worked humble jobs as a postman and a librarian, respectively. As you may know, they held those jobs for life, and collected art furiously while making a living in this way. I don’t have a spouse, but I do live at home with my parents, and hold a variety of support staff positions at a restaurant: food-runner and busser mostly, and sometimes barback. I’ve been working at the same restaurant for over three years, and find those jobs extremely gratifying and complementary to my role as an art collector. I work alone, but with the aid of invaluable art-reference resources: the Boston Athenæum, of which I am a recent subscriber, Brattle Book Shop, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Fogg Art Museum, and online access to JSTOR and archive.org. I also created /r/privatestudyrooms to discover how bibliophiles and art collectors created worlds for themselves via books and art objects, and use those photographs to determine how I want to direct my collecting interests.
With all this in mind the following prices do not reflect the blood, sweat and tears that go with working in the service industry, but I hope it does show that I go way out of my way to find high quality objects that are relatively inexpensive, because of how obscure they are. By obscure I mean that the seller’s object has never been appraised or selected by a picker for resale, which is usually double or triple the price that I want. The prices on Sotheby’s and Christie’s are astronomical by comparison. Each object usually requires 20-40 hours of laborious searching, looking at 5,000-100,000 objects, almost entirely via eBay. And although I am not up to Isabella Stewart Gardner’s standards in how much of her income she devoted to buying art, I always keep her in mind and try to minimize personal expenses. These are total prices including shipping and handling, and were purchased consecutively once per month since August, 2012, but not in this order:
- $2,160 – Unidentified Austrian Portrait
- $2,101 – Bacchante, by Jules Jean Pendariès [1862-1933]
- $2,015 – L’Infante Marie Dupont (tête en bas), by Charles Matton [1931-2008]
- $1,743.98 – Portrait of Thomas Hill, by John Linnell [1792-1882]
- $1,312.70 Mater Dolorosa
- $1,268.89 – Two objects that failed to stay in the collection: Portrait of Cavalier by Maurice Ingres ($999), and Copy of David Slaying Goliath, after Rubens ($269.89)
- $1,217.61 – Sketch for a Banquet at the Palazzo, by Eugenio Balbiano di Colcavagno [1816-1872]
- $1,060.60 – Portrait of Leona Hladik, by Maurice Ingres [1855-19xx]
- $1,030 – Ritual Bronze Vessel
- $790 – Portrait of Robert Hunt (?)
- $781.21 – Satyress, by Joe Descomps [1869-1950]
- $775 – Interior of a Monastic Chapel
- $770 – Portrait of Helen, wife of the artist, by Arthur Franklyn Musgrave [1878-1969]
- $512 – Clare with Arrow
- $387 – German Calendar Stone
- $363 – Shang ritual vessel
- $312 – Unidentified British Watercolor Portrait
- $285 – Vishnu riding Garuda
- $275 – View of Mallorca, Spain, by William H. Waldren [1924-2003]
- $253.16 – Infant Hercules, by Julien Dillens [1849-1904]
- $249.99 – Ritual Bronze Censer
- $212 – Calliope in Reverie, by Victor C.
- $196 – Sogo Bo Puppet
- $178 – Unidentified Woman Holding a Snake
Total: $20,249.14, or $809.96 on average per object.
In looking over those prices I think the Bacchante was the best deal in that a real carved marble statue is incredibly difficult to find for any price, and I recognized that when I saw it because I had been looking for one for three years prior. The Portrait of Thomas Hill has by far the most interesting history because of how well-documented Thomas Hill’s antics were by his peers. The amount of skill per dollar for the Infant Hercules is completely off the charts, I consider that sculpture a masterpiece of form and would have gladly paid ten times the amount.
If you go to the database version of the collection you will see that these objects came from all over the world. There are markets that are only open to certain regions who speak a foreign language and use foreign vocabulary. For this reason I use Google Translate like a fiend and search for objects in Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Turkish. It would be impossible to find a suitable collection with only English at my command. I have also never purchased anything in person–everything has been acquired online.