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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-09-15
- Reviewer: Staff
In this fascinating book about a watershed moment in the culture of America’s art museums, Rathbone (Walker Evans) considers her father Perry Rathbone’s directorship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). A connoisseur and showman who believed that “art is for everyone,” Rathbone’s influence as director was felt distinctly in the MFA from 1955 until 1972, when he was forced by the museum’s board of trustees to resign. That decision was triggered by the controversy surrounding a tiny oil painting of a small girl, believed to be an unknown Raphael. For the occasion of MFA’s centennial in 1970, Rathbone covertly purchased the painting for $600,000 from a shady dealer in Genoa. Eluding Italy’s artistic patrimony law, the painting was smuggled into the U.S. Set against the backdrop of this intrigue are Rathbone’s descriptions of life at MFA in the postwar years. She chronicles the celebration of its centennial, from the exhibitions that were installed to the infighting among staff and the attempts to woo collectors. Her father represents the old breed of museum directors, arbiters who behaved as “public servants” rather than “CEOs of a considerable corporate enterprise.” Her book sheds light on museology of the present as well as of the past. Agent: Ike Williams, Kneerim, Williams & Bloom. (Oct.)