"The writer's familiarity with his subject brings Ringling to the reader's doorstep . . . [including the] early influences on John Ringling's life, the family's success, Sarasota in its early decades, Ringling's impact on boomtime Sarasota, his museum collection, the last years of his life, and the litigious period following his death."--Paul George, University of Miami
"As a circus promoter, an inveterate patron of the arts, a self-styled art critic and connoisseur, and a real estate developer, [Ringling] sought to bridge the often disparate worlds of popular and high culture. . . .
"Based on a decade of research and writing, Ringling: The Florida Years is a carefully crafted analysis of both the public and private life of one of American history's most colorful and influential culture brokers. . . .
"The triumphs and the tragedies, the genius and the decadence, the generosity and the self-indulgence--David Weeks recaptures it all in this even-handed and compelling biography."--From the Foreword by Raymond Arsenault, University of South Florida
John Nicholas Ringling's years in Sarasota spanned the final quarter-century of his life. On Florida's west coast, as the Ringling's Circus became "the greatest show on earth," he collected Baroque paintings, European decorative art, and Italian statuary, built the ostentatious mansion Ca'd'Zan, developed and marketed most of the barrier islands around Sarasota Bay, and became the focus of a confusing pastiche of acclaim, misconception, and suspicion. Sarasota's Ringling Museum is his priceless cultural legacy to the people of Florida and the world of art--an inheritance at risk for the ten years that Ringling's estate was in probate.
The author of this first intensive look at Ringling's presence in Sarasota sets the man against the backdrop of Florida from World War I through the land boom and the turbulent twenties into the depression years and Ringling's lapse into obscurity.
Illustrated with nearly fifty black-and-white photographs, many never before published, this is the chronicle of a man, as the foreword claims, "who was not afraid to think or live on a grand scale, who knew what he wanted from life, and from art."
David C. Weeks, occasional lecturer in Imperial studies at the Royal Empire Society and adjunct professor at the American University Center for Technology and Administration, Washington, D.C., is a docent at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.