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William Beckford, 1760-1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, edited by Derek E. Ostergard


Derek E. Ostergard, editor

The British collector William Beckford helped to define many of the most significant parameters of nineteenth-century collecting, as he was unbound by conventional intellectual or aesthetic prejudice. He was among the first of the great connoisseurs to collect Asian and Islamic art while breaking with the taste of his contemporaries. He assembled an eclectic and luxurious collection that included ancient, medieval, and Renaissance art, as well as seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and early-nineteenth-century objects. His active participation in the design of various objects reveals a discriminating aesthetic sensibility that set him apart from his contemporaries. His influence also extended beyond his day: generations of renowned private collectors in Great Britain, on the Continent, and in the United States have reflected his interest in the art of many cultures and periods. This magnificent book describes Beckford's flamboyant personality and unconventional life. Authorities tell us that at an early age, Beckford was known as "England's wealthiest son", due to a prodigal income generated from Jamaican sugar plantations. As a youth, he travelled widely and made his mark as a novelist, composer of music, and impresario of design. His most ambitious project was his fantastic residence Fonthill Abbey; the construction and furnishing of this Gothic Revival edifice consumed nearly twenty-five years of Beckford's life and vast amounts of his fortune, branding him with a reputation as a recluse and eccentric. In addition to providing details about Beckford's life, the book discusses 175 of the finest works of art that once were part of Beckford's legendary collections and examines his travels and great building projects. 


Table of Contents

Susan Weber Soros

Derek E. Ostergard

1. William Beckford: A Biographical Perspective
Timothy Mowl

2. Beckford, Soane, and Hope: The Psychology of the Collector
David Watkin

3. Fonthill House: "One of the Most Princely Edifices in the Kingdom"
Philip Hewait-Jaboor

4. Clinging Fast "to My Tutelary Mountains": Beckford in Helvetia
William Hauptman

5. The World of Beckford's Portuguese Palaces
Malcolm Jack

6. William Beckford in Paris, 1788-1814: "Le Faste Solitaire"
Anne Eschapasse

7. William Beckford's Abbey at Fonthill: From the Picturesque to the Sublime
Megan Aldrich

8. William Beckford and the Landscape Garden
Alexander Marr

9. A Celebrated Collector
Bet McLeod

10. Filling the Void: The Development of Beckford's Taste and the Market in Furniture
Adriana Turpin

11. William Beckford and Metalwork
Michael Snodin

12. Observations on Japanese Lacquer in the COllection of William Beckford
Oliver Impey and John Whitehead

13. William Beckford: Collector of Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and Prints
Jeannie Chapel

14. William Beckford in London
Sidney Blackmore

15. The Bath Years, 1822-44
Sidney Blackmore

16. Beckford's Tower in Bath
Christopher Woodward

Catalogue of the Exhibition

A. Source Notes
B. Provenance, Exhibitions, Literature, Marks, Signatures, and Inscriptions



6.00 LBS

Other Details


12.2 x 10.2 x 1.3 in.

Page count
496 pages, color illustrations

Publication date