William Buchanan: Speculator or Dealer?

In his 2017 book, Rogues’ Gallery: A History of a Art and its Dealers, pages 41 to 42, Philip Hook devotes a chapter, titled ‘The Art of Speculation: William Buchanan’, to the Dalmarnock-born man. He comments:

“William Buchanan was a glorious, larger-than-life product of the Regency era, an entrepreneur operating in a period that offered opportunity and disappointment in tantalising succession. His differentiation of himself as a speculator rather than a dealer is an interesting one. In Buchanan’s eyes, to be a speculator in paintings was a respectable, even gentlemanly way to approach art, akin to a commercial venture like buying a boatload of bananas from the West Indies, importing them and selling them at a profit in Britain. But a dealer, no. That was a lower form of commercial life. “Mr Champernowne in his letter suggests my joining him in a scheme of purchasing pictures in London to send out to Rome which he says may turn out to good account,” Buchanan reported sniffily to his English agent David Stewart in February 1802. “This is dealing, not speculating, and I have entirely declined it.”

For information about Buchanan and his brother-in-law, Alexander Gordon, the Glasgow-based art collector, please see: George Fairfull-Smith, The Wealth of a City: A ‘Glance at the Fine Arts in Glasgow, Volume One, 1641-1830, 2010.