I cannot think of anyone better qualified to write about the lives of collectors than James Stourton, the exceedingly tall, elegant and well-connected chairman of Sotheby’s UK, who has spent his life making friends with the owners of great works of art. Himself a bibliophile and member of the Roxburgh Club, with wide-ranging intellectual interests, he has evidently met many of the collectors about whom he writes, and he describes them sympathetically, if occasionally with slightly too much of the deference that comes with a position in the upper echelons of auctioneering. His book is comprehensive and readable, and gives a fascinating account of postwar collecting across three continents.
Stourton begins in Paris with Picasso and André Breton. Each collector receives an entry with the key facts and characteristics of their collection, as if they are being sized up for a future auction, with an indication of what the best works are and often of how those works are