Dealer Gavin Claxton of Academy Fine Paintings.

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1 How did you get your start?

I founded Academy Fine Paintings six years ago, turning what had been a lifelong passion for art into a business. I had worked in film and television for 20 years as a producer, writer and director. I had always been a collector but then it dawned on me that I had begun to enjoy finding wonderful works of art more than I did anything else. The unavoidable conclusion was to become a full-time dealer.

2 How has the antiques market changed?

Like every other art or antiques dealer, I am sure, I would have to immediately point to the advent of the internet and the growing predominance of online sales as the game-changer. Luckily, I was never a dealer prior to the days of the internet so, unlike a great many other dealers who were, I have no ‘good old days’ to lament and have built Academy Fine Paintings in tandem with the internet rather than in spite of it.

3 What is one highlight item in your stock right now?

One? We have so many! OK – my personal favourite is a large three-quarter length portrait of a young Victorian society girl painted in 1901 by the great French academic and Orientalist painter Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902). Titled Madeleine, the effervescent character of the female subject is captured as effectively as her striking beauty.


'Madeleine', a portrait painted in 1901 by Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902). It is offered by Gavin Claxton of Academy Fine Paintings.

4 Who do you admire in the world of arts and antiques?

My mentor and hero was – and will always be – Brian Sewell. I was lucky enough to have got to know Brian in the final 10 years of his life and was equally as fortunate to discover that he clearly thought I knew enough to make me interesting and worthy of his time. He was a lovely, big-hearted man with a profound knowledge and understanding of paintings from every period. And yes, that includes work post-1950, about which he and I heartily agreed.

5 When is the best time to start a collection?

Right now. It is a buyer’s market. In a few years people will look back at this time and think ‘why didn’t I buy more!’.

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