Some pieces were bought as an investment and were destined to spend their days in safety deposit boxes. Paintings would often be left with Christie's for safe keeping, or until a house was redecorated, though it was often the case that pieces stayed hidden in the vaults for many, many years.
I always used to think that was so sad - all of those amazing pieces of art hidden away where no-one could see them.
I was mulling all this over the other day when our nephews came to visit and we took them out to explore the Langdale Valley on a beautiful but busy bank holiday Sunday. The car crawled along the northern shores of Windermere (more time to admire the views) as we made our way to Ambleside and we were accompanied on our journey up to Stickle Tarn by several hundred other people out enjoying the sunshine.
It would have been incredibly easy to curse every other person who ventured out that day, denying us the chance to enjoy the fells in peace, but then that would have been no better than wishing for magnificent pieces of art to remain hidden away in bank vaults and dusty basements.
Aside from the fact that we rely on the tourist industry here and that crowds of people mean good business for hotels, B&Bs, pubs, cafes, gift shops etc., surely the sight of so many people out enjoying the sunshine is a good thing?
We saw families laughing and chattering as they made their way upwards; kids chastised (as were our nephews a few times) for getting overly enthusiastic or for getting too near to the waterfalls or cliff edges and exhausted groups pausing for welcome gulps of juice and chocolate.
We chatted to many of them, discussing the stunning views, my silly hat or how much beer we planned to have when we got back to the pub at the bottom. And we all paused to admire a gorgeous little 3 year old girl making her determined way to the top in her pretty princess wellington boots.
Surely it's a fantastic thing to see so many people out having fun in the sunshine? And how dull would the pub have been without plenty of people laughing, chattering, telling exaggerated stories and playing board games while they enjoyed a beer and a well earned plate of food? Yes the food took a bit of a while to arrive, but that's because it was all freshly made, not some burger bar production line - and anyway, it gave us more time to natter.
You only need a map and a tiny sense of adventure if you really do want to avoid the crowds (instead of returning down the way we came we cut across to Dungeon Ghyll and only saw 3 other people on our entire route back to the pub). So long as folks are respectful (and let's face it, most of them are) there really is plenty of room on the fells for everyone.