The poet W. H. Auden once remarked that hearing gourmets describe favorite meals made him wish he could live on pills, and reading the memoirs of some art collectors describing their acquisitions can make one want to live sans art. An exception to this trend is the art connoisseur Michel Strauss, born in France in 1936 to Jewish parents, and former Head of the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at Sotheby’s auction house, London.
Strauss’s “Pictures, Passions and Eye: A Life at Sotheby’s,” out in September from Halban Publishers is a gimlet-eyed, refreshingly un-gossipy view of art and its collectors. Strauss writes:
Although I am not a practicing Jew, I am proud of the history, traditions, and culture I inherited.
Part of that tradition came from his paternal grandfather, the art collector Jules Strauss, whereas his mother’s family comprised Jewish art lovers with such resonant names as de Gunzbourg and Deutsche de la Meurthe.