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The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures Hardcover – June 10, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Art historian Mould provides an accessible introduction to the world of art dealing, inviting the listener along as he tracks down the provenance of paintings--including a Thomas Gainsborough. His vignettes are fascinating, if slightly rambling, and they are deftly delivered by James Langton, whose crisp English accent coupled with an assertive, authoritative handling of the material proves delightful. He enlivens the more drab or technical sections and provides smooth transitions from English to American accents. A Viking hardcover. (July)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Philip Mould is a British art dealer best known in the U.S for his appearances as an art appraiser on the PBS re-broadcasts of the original BBC series Antiques Roadshow, retitled Antiques Roadshow UK. Mould’s real claim to fame, though, is as a finder of lost or misidentified art. Here he recounts, with considerable wit and charm, his adventures in the trade, and the stories behind his most noteworthy finds, among them a lost piece by Thomas Gainsborough and a watercolor by Winslow Homer. Mould writes like a born storyteller, revealing enough of his craft in these highly literate “war stories” to pull in the layman reader and inform those who want to know a little about identifying and restoring art works without bogging down his yarns with needless minutia. Remarkably, given Mould’s stature in the world of art dealing, he devotes little space to self-congratulation, admirable modesty that makes his prose all the more endearing and the man all the more fascinating. --Jack Helbig

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st edition (June 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021857
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Golomb VINE VOICE on June 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm not an art connoisseur by any stretch, although I do have my tastes and don't mind the occasional museum stroll. I love history and I love a good story. When you combine art, history and terrific storytelling, you come out with a book like "The Art Detectives" by Philip Mould.

The book is structured around 6 specific paintings, and the mysteries that surround/surrounded them. Mould is a fantastic writer. He's clear, concise and sometimes poetic. It's an odd thing to focus on when considering a work of non-fiction, but his writing is as expressive and pronounced as anything I've read recently.

Mould avoids the pretension, condescension and patronizing tone that one might expect from a book on high art. And surprisingly, each story is a strong tale in and of itself. At their best, they are very personal, human and touching. At their worst, they're simply good mysteries that Mould unravels layer-by-layer with a blending of personal insight, relevant experiences, historical background and significance. And it all flows beautifully through his solid prose and storytelling abilities.

The strongest tale is of Moulds' meetings with an eccentric hoarder named Earle Newton. The story ranges from their first interactions, to their first and subsequent visits. Newton is more of an "ammasser" than he is a collector, and the real heart of the narrative is Newton's wackiness and the impact of his hoarding on his family.

Family is also at the heart of a story that centers on a well known art deception (and recovery) of a Norman Rockwell painting. After subtle clues circulate around Rockwell's "Break Home Ties", two brothers hunt for the truth of whether their father owned a real Rockwell, and whether or not he knew it was a fake.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Philip Mould takes a wonderfully interesting look at how art restoration works. But, in looking at restoration of existing paintings, he also delves into how he, as a gallery owner, along with his team, find work that has remained under-valued or unvalued for centuries. And then how that piece, now restored by Mould's experts, ventures back into the art world in renewed glory.

Mould, an appraiser for the BBC's "Antique Roadshow", is also an owner of a gallery in London which specialises in antique portraits. As an aside, I have visited the gallery in the past to see his collection but did not know that this book was written by the gallery's owner until I read the credits. As a book reviewer, I have no reason to falsely rave about his book, even though I have enjoyed visiting his gallery. I suppose that being a fan of antique portraits gave me the impetus to read and review the book, however.

Mould takes five or so examples of "found" paintings - one from his "Antique Roadshow" - and writes how instinct and education about a painter, his other work, the painting's subject's history, and other "intangables' go into Mould and his staff taking on an often dirty and undistinguished painting on the chance that the painting is "the real thing" - a real Rembrandt, a real Homer Winslow, etc. Probably the most interesting story was that of a Norman Rockwell painting on display at the Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts that...wasn't. Wasn't the "real" Rockwell painting, but rather one done by a disciple of Rockwell, who copied the original for reasons sort of murky, and donated to the museum. The "real" Rockwell was found by the copier's sons after his death and turned over to the museum.

The other examples Mould cites are almost as interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
I listened to the audio book version of the book and I found it interesting yet frustrating. Some of the stories were quite interesting but getting there took some time. I was expecting many case studies with shorter time spent on each one. I lasted till I was about half way through the book. That's when the author started to talk about Rembrandt and it went round and round there for a long while without getting to the meat of the story (therefore my reference to "breading"). I just gave up. I know the book got very good reviews from other readers, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.
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Format: Hardcover
Considering that I have just finished my series of posts on Portraits as Art Market Currency, I think it is rather fitting that I post a review of a book about the exploits of a British portrait dealer - a book that I absolutely loved reading and want to encourage everyone else to read. Seeking out works of art that he suspects have hidden secrets has taken world renowned portrait expert and art world super sleuth Philip Mould OBE all over the world on exciting journeys of discovery and enlightenment. His latest book titled `The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds and the Search for Lost Treasures' is a collection of case histories that provide a fascinating insight into the sleuthing escapades of the art world's answer to Sherlock Holmes. From the identification of a long lost Winslow Homer recovered from a rubbish dump, to the discovery of an amazing early work by Gainsborough that was misattributed to a "follower of Jacob van Ruisdael", Mould's true tales of art world investigation introduce the reader to a world of kookie characters and perturbing mysteries.

If you are a fan of the UK Antiques Roadshow then you have probably seen Mould giving valuations to hopeful visitors and would be aware of his position as a valuer of fine art. Die hard Antiques Roadshow fans will also know that Mould gave the first one million pound valuation for a design model of Antony Gormley's Angel of the North sculpture which appeared on the 16 November 2008 episode. What you perhaps didn't know about Mould is that he has made his mark on art history by breathing new life into damaged or misidentified portraits. In the hands of Mould and his team, paintings that once languished in obscurity are given the artistic and historical recognition they deserve.
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