Belonging and Betrayal: How Jews Made the Art World Modern

Brandeis Univ. Sept. 2021. 672p. ISBN 9781684580569. $40. FINE ARTS
Dellheim (history, Boston Univ.; The Face of the Past; The Disenchanted Isle) writes a history of the European Jews who had a lasting impact on art world in the 20th century. In an era when Jews in Europe were barred from owning land, opening shops, or joining guilds, they entered the art world instead, Dellheim argues, as art dealers, critics, and collectors. He highlights the powerful turn-of-the-century dealers and collectors (Alfred Flechtheim, Alexandre Rosenberg, Nathan Wildenstein) who influenced the movement of artworks and styles throughout Europe and to the United States. They became champions of avant-garde artists like Picasso and Matisse and protected historic collections with works by old masters, Dellheim argues. They reached pinnacles of monetary and social success until the Second World War and German occupation forced them to flee their homes or be sent to concentration camps and they saw their art and fortunes ripped away.
VERDICT Readers of Dellheim’s book will learn more about the history of modern art and European cultural history during times of upheaval and turmoil. Those who enjoy history and art history will enjoy this deep dive.
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