Duchess of Cork Street: The Autobiography of an Art Dealer Lillian Browse

Duchess of Cork Street: The Autobiography of an Art Dealer

Lillian Browse

The qualities that made Lillian Browse so successful as an art dealer are evident in her autobiography: She brought native charm, enthusiasm, and inventiveness to a field in which, in the 1940s, these qualities were in short supply. She had found work in a London gallery in the 1930s, after leaving a stalled career as a ballerina, but did not achieve much visibility until the wartime years, when she beguiled the notoriously difficult Sir Kenneth Clark into allowing her to mount a massive show celebrating British painting since the 1880s in the otherwise empty corridors of the National Gallery, which had been emptied of its treasures when the war began. The show did a great deal to rouse morale, and as a byproduct opened further doors for Browse, who joined several other figures in launching an art gallery when the war ended. She and her partners successfully promoted, over several decades, the reputations of some dead British artists and the careers of many living ones. Browse, a talented writer and a perceptive critic, published several well-received books on British and French painters. She retired from the gallery scene in 1981. Her short, charming memoir of her career is distinguished by her deft, often witty sketches of the painters and sculptors she worked with, and demonstrates some of the grace and intelligence that made her an admired figure in an otherwise deeply contentious field. A light and winning portrait of the commingling of British art and commerce.

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