Through the example of Central Pacific Railroad executives, Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California redirects attention from the usual art historical protagonists - artistic producers - and rewrites narratives of American art from the unfamiliar vantage of patrons and collectors. Neither denouncing, nor lionizing, nor dismissing its subjects, it demonstrates the benefits of taking art consumers seriously as active contributors to the cultural meanings of artwork. It explores the critical role of art patronage in the articulation of a new and distinctly modern elite class identity for newly ascendant corporate executives and financiers. These economic elites also sought to legitimate trends in industrial capitalism, such as mechanization, incorporation, and proletarianization, through their consumption of a diverse array of elite culture, including regional landscapes, panoramic and stop-motion photography, history paintings of the California Gold Rush, the architecture of Stanford University, and the design of domestic galleries. This book addresses not only readers in the art history and visual and material cultures of the United States, but also scholars of patronage studies, American Studies, and the sociology of culture. It tells a story still relevant to this new Gilded Age of the early 21st century, in which wealthy collectors dramatically shape contemporary art markets and institutions.
Prize: Winner of a College Art Association Wyeth Foundation for American Art Publication Grant
'This is the most important book on Gilded Age art patronage written in years. This fascinating book offers a much-needed alternative perspective on American art and patronage of the late 19th century. By exploring how the Gilded Age unfolded in the land of gold - California - John Ott mines a rich history indeed, at once regional and cosmopolitan. Ott brilliantly illuminates the emergence of a broader, national network of corporate culture-brokering, to which artists often tailored their work or had it tailored for them, in some cases seriously complicating assumptions about artistic authorship and originality. Ott’s study is social art history at its best.' Alan C. Braddock, College of William & Mary, USA
'One thing is for certain, Ott’s book is a worthy successor to Burns’ study, and it should have a similarly galvanizing effect on the field.' CAA Reviews
'Ott’s book is not only an impressive study of art patronage and social class in Gilded Age California, but also a model for historians seeking to explore other Art Worlds,� as Becker defined them, in the Nineteenth Century, the United States, and beyond.' Panorama
'Academic works should provoke, and Ott drives his interpretations to the limit in Manufacturing the Modern Patron in Victorian California. Judging from his intense writing and clever titles, Ott’s classes at Virginia’s James Madison University will never lack lively discussion.' Western Historical Quarterly