Into the abstract abyss.
There are very many familiar things here, and it is not hard to suggest modern-day equivalents to the hard-nosed dealer, the artist with more of an eye on capitalising his talent than developing his skill, the collector who buys and sells with such rapidity that he could really best be regarded as a species of dealer.
One thing that does differentiate the 19th-century art market from the present day, however, is the greater danger of a crash in value, of the money underpinning an artist’s career simply vanishing. That seems much less likely to happen to an artist now. [DS: cocks an eyebrow] The difficulty is in succeeding in the first place, not in hanging on to an income once success has been attained. It is quite hard to think of a school of art, or an individual artist, that was once considered excellent and valuable whose prices have collapsed utterly. The reason, I guess, is the creation in recent years of art-market indices, which purport to show collector/investors that the price of this artist has gone up and up, and must therefore hold. [faith holds it]
The 19th century, which at a certain point looked at the painting on the gallery wall and thought ‘I just don’t like it any more’ before walking off to buy something more fashionable, was a much more precarious period for an artist to exist within. To a large extent, these artists and dealers were still learning how to rig the market, and were not very good at it.
This is a brilliant account of learning, or failing, to survive in a market of extraordinary brutality. The interesting question is how far this market also succeeded in creating artists of the highest quality and innovative power. [it hasn’t, it failed completely]