Owning Art: Claims and Controversies

Moderator: Ellen Peck
Role of participants: Lead discussion of five books we will all read together. For mini reports: do some research on controversies about the ownership of art.
Number of participants (including the moderator): 10-16
Time: Wednesdays, 1:30–3:30 pm
Place: Loomis Village, 3rd Floor Conference Room, 20 Bayon Drive (off Route 116), South Hadley
Parking: Ample parking on site

Why do we want to own art works? Or collect them? By reading several novels and historical accounts of collectors, this seminar will explore some of the personal and cultural issues involved in the ownership of art.

We will all read the five books listed. Each member will lead part of the discussion of each book. In addition, we will do some mini research projects on famous cases of disputed ownership and the current laws governing the sale of art works.

Format: Seminar


  1. The Girl with the Pearl Earring: A Novel by Tracy Chevalier (a novel about how a famous painting was created during the patronage era)
  2. Portrait of Dr. Gachet: the Story of a Van Gogh  Masterpiece, Money, Politics, Collectors, Greed, and Loss by Cynthia Saltzman (the biography of a painting which Van Gogh created to pay his medical bills)
  3. The Girl You Left Behind: a Novel by Jojo Moyes (a story about how art becomes part of an individual’s history).
  4. The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal (a history of a famous family of collectors who were stripped by the Nazis)
  5. Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman (a speculative account of an unwary collector)

The moderator: Ellen Peck taught English Literature at Wellesley and Mount Holyoke.  She has also been an art docent at Mount Holyoke, and currently at the Springfield Museum of Art.  Her interest in art was sparked by a year of living in Rome.

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