The British as Art Collectors

From the Tudors to the Present

James Stourton and Charles Sebag-Montefiore

ISBN: 978 1 85759 749 3
Size: 290 x 230 mm / 9 x 11.5 in.
Binding: hardcover
Pages: 352
Images: 370

UK £60.00 / US $100.00


  • Provides a comprehensive survey of British art collectors down the centuries
  • Widely acclaimed upon publication as the best book yet on its subject, and set to be the standard account for many years to come
  • Features over 300 illustrations, including some of the greatest works from British collections


To see the great art galleries, stately homes and museums up and down Britain today is to witness the rich story of the British as art collectors, a narrative that mirrors the history of the country. In this remarkable new book, James Stourton and Charles Sebag-Montefiore present a comprehensive survey of British art collectors down the centuries. The major collecting landmarks covered include Henry VIII, who harnessed the arts in the service of the crown, Charles I and the Whitehall Circle, the Grand Tour and the country house boom, the bonanza created by the Napoleonic Wars and the Industrial Revolution, French taste, the collecting of Spanish art, the passion for Florence, the 19th-century heyday for the creation of museums, the private collectors who sparked the belated British love affair with Impressionism, the State's role in patronage and collecting after World War II, and the manner in which London has recently become a metropolis of contemporary art. Yet the authors' strengths lie not only in these grand themes, but also in their mastery of detail through the different eras. They write with equal authority about the royal patronage and collecting of the Tudor period, with which they begin, and the collectors of today. Includes over 300 illustrations, including many of the greatest works of art to have featured in British collections.


James Stourton was Chairman of Sotheby's UK until 2012. He is the author of Great Collectors of Our Time and Great Smaller Museums of Europe (both Scala) and frequently writes on the history of collecting. Charles Sebag-Montefiore has spent 40 years creating the definitive library on British patronage and collecting, a unique resource that has enabled the research for this book. He is a Director of Ludgate Investments Ltd and other companies and Treasurer of the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library, the Walpole Society and of other charities. He was a Trustee of the National Art Collections Fund between 2000 and 2011.


"There could be no better guides to this wide-ranging subject than the authors of this book, who over many decades have acquired an extraordinary knowledge of the history of collecting in Britain... Their joint researches have now come to fruition in this remarkable volume, which is beautifully ilustrated with 383 judiciously chosen plates... this book is easily the best source of reference published to date... this volume will surely establish itself as the standard account for many years to come."
Art Fund Magazine

"Elegantly written, beautifully produced with an abundance of first-rate colour illustrations, and fairly crackling with the authors' enthusiasm for their subject."
Apollo Magazine

"I cannot imagine how the research and narrative of this beautifully designed and illustrated book could be bettered."
Historic House Magazine

"This brilliant book is both scholarly and accessible, telling a riveting story."
RA Magazine

"This book should be thrust under the noses of our arts administrators, who often seem to prefer to compete with collectors rather than encouraging them to enrich the national holdings in the manner of their predecessors."
The Times