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Gimpel was one of three sons of a French father, the art dealer René Gimpel, and an English mother, Florence, the youngest sister of Lord Duveen. Gimpel was brought up in luxury in a house in the Bois de Boulogne, though he went on to be educated in both France and Britain. He made his living as a diamond broker before establishing himself as a critic of the concept of the great artist.
In 1987 Gimpel became a founding vice-president of the Society for the History of Mediaeval Technology and Science, the British affiliate of AVISTA and the Association de Villard de Honnecourt. Gimpel believed that the basis of sustainable development in the developing world should be low-tech mediaeval machines that could be built, maintained, repaired and replaced using local craftsmen and resources. He was also a founder of Models for Rural Development, part of the Appropriate Technology movement.
Gimpel and his wife Catherine maintained a salon in London in his later years.
Gimpel's published works included:
- The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages
- The Cathedral Builders
- The Cult of Art: Against Art and Artists
- The End of the Future: The Waning of the High-Tech World
- Jean Gimpel, Obituary by Roger Berthoud, in The Independent, 26 June 1996. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituaryjean-gimpel-1338891.html
- LibraryThing entry
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