Getty Research Puts Knoedler Database Painting Stock Books Online

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Fellow appraiser Cindy Charleston Rosenberg, ISA CAPP sent me the news on a new and very interesting research tool.

The Getty Research Institute has digitized and placed on line nearly 24000 records from the Knoedler Gallery painting stock books.  Currently books 1-6, dealing with art sales from 1872 to 1920 are online, with books 7-11 expected to be uploaded and available shortly.

The records listed are rather amazing, with purchase price, sales price, date of purchase and provenance. Click HERE to search the database of the stock books. See image of a record and click on it to enlarge

The Getty reports on the Knoedler painting stock books
Records of art sales from prominent dealers’ books offer a who’s who of art collecting in the Gilded Age, tracing the origins of key American museums

The Getty Research Institute has launched an expanded dealer stock book database that provides free online access to almost 24,000 records created from the Knoedler Gallery painting stock books. Books 1 through 6, dating from 1872 to 1920, are available now; stock books 7 through 11 will be added soon. You can explore the records from the Knoedler stock books here.

Knoedler Gallery in New York was a central force in the evolution of an art market in the U.S. This newly enhanced database can be used to reconstruct the itineraries of thousands of paintings that crossed the Atlantic during the Gilded Age—including many that ended up in major American museums.

Creating the Database

Records in the database were created by transcribing handwritten entries in the original ledgers preserved at the Getty Research Institute. To facilitate searching, editors of the Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance (PSCP) then reviewed and enhanced these records by adding subject classifications, and validating artist names against an authority database listing variations of the ones found in the books. More research and standardization work will be done on buyer and seller names toward the end of this two-year project. But it seemed appropriate to respond to the demand of the scholarly community as fast as possible.

Together with over 43,700 records from another prominent gallery, Goupil & Cie and Boussod, Valadon & Cie in Paris (1846–1919), which have been online since 2011, this expanded database forms an important subsection of the Getty Provenance Index®. While the Knoedler stock books were being transcribed and edited, Ruth Cuadra, an application systems analyst in the Research Institute’s Information Systems Department, worked to adapt the Goupil database design to accommodate the new Knoedler data. One special feature of the new design allows researchers to link Goupil stock numbers found in Knoedler records with the original Goupil records.

Why Study Stock Books?

The transactions of art galleries remain to a large extent secret. Buyers and sellers typically put a high value on discretion, making it hard to reconstruct who bought what, when, and for what price. Dealer stock books, which include information such as purchasers’ names, sale dates, and selling prices, are among the most precious source documents for research in the history of collecting and art markets. However, as suggested by Paul Durand-Ruel, legendary promoter of the Impressionists, rare were the art dealers who kept systematic records of their transactions. In the case of 19th-century gallerists, even when they recorded their inventories in stock books, those books rarely survive. The business archives of several Goupil competitors, including Charles Sedelmeyer, Louis Martinet, and Georges Petit, seem to be lost forever. No one thought this material important enough to save.

Only recently have some crucial dealer archives of the period become publicly accessible: the National Gallery, London, acquired the papers of Thomas Agnew and Sons, and the Colnaghi archive just moved from an inaccessible warehouse in the east of London to Waddesdon Manor, a Rothschild estate, an occasion that is being celebrated with a conference on “Art Dealing in the Gilded Age” this week. Starting in October at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, a Durand-Ruel exhibition taking advantage of his archive will tour Europe and the United States.

The Getty Research Institute acquired the M. Knoedler & Co. archive in 2012, uniting it with the Institute’s extensive holdings of important dealer materials in the Special Collections such as those of Duveen Bros., Goupil, Boussod & Valadon, Arnold et Tripp, and many others.
Source: Getty IRIS

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