Catalogue Raisonné – A Collector’s Guide

Nov 29, 2020Artwise Posters
Catalogue Raisonné – A Collector’s Guide
JUNE 21, 2018 

The practice of art collecting can be as overwhelming as it is exhilarating, especially when you begin to do research about an artist in whom you have taken a keen interest. It can feel like the more you learn, the more it seems you need to learn in order to make sense of an often chaotic and shall we say artistic lifespan of work. For many of the world’s biggest names, this research has already been done, sometimes by large teams of people compiling with the highest degree of accuracy possible, creating exhaustive published records of every work completed by a particular artist. These hard copy books, called a catalogue raisonné, are beautiful works themselves, representing an art historian’s dedication to the deep appreciation of an artist’s oeuvre in its entirety.

For the world of printmaking, the aim of these books is to present all of the information available about where and when a work was made, how many prints were in the edition and if there were Artist’s Proofs or Printer’s Proofs, how many were signed or stamped, if the piece was designed by the artist or by the printer and even details about the type of paper used. The catalogues are so comprehensive that they present a reliable identification source that can be referenced by any third party, and are agreed on to be the definitive word. For a collector, not only do these books offer a wildly diverse tour through a favorite artist’s complete range of expression in a particular medium, but they also offer a critical component of authenticity— if it is not in the book, then it is not likely to be real.

Pablo Picasso – Picasso In His Posters - Image and Work, book 1992

Picasso made so many posters it took Luis Carlos Rodrigo two enormous volumes of over 600 pages each to archive them all, titled Picasso In His Posters - Image and Work, this a first edition printing. He begins the book with historical anecdotes on posters and then puts Picasso’s posters within this context, describing in great detail the levels of classification by which Picasso’s methods can be organised. He paints a sweeping establishing picture, so to speak, after which a thrilling up-close exposé of all of the Picasso details for which we love him can be explored. With its magnetic large full-page presentation, this is the kind of collection that has the mysterious power to reveal new pieces each time the book is opened. As these prints disperse throughout the world and disappear into the depths of private collections, you simply will not see this kind of wholeness in any other place or time.

Pablo Picasso – Picasso In His Posters - Image and Work, book interior pages

Andy Warhol Prints, with 1700 illustrations and full documentation, is a catalogue that presents Warhol’s complete graphic production, from his first unique works on paper in 1962 through his final published portfolio in 1987, including trial proof prints and unpublished prints. It is quite moving to see so much of Warhol’s work sequenced in one place, and without the distractions of the usual surrounding fanfare, whether that be internet detritus or presentation cacophony. Leafing through this book can be done at the meditative pace that lends itself to art appreciation, and as such the purity of Warhol’s genius is reignited. Each different color scheme he chose for the same subject becomes suddenly brilliant again, and it is easy to understand why his work has had such an enduring appeal. You might even argue that this portrayal is a glimpse into this enigmatic figure’s personal world, with a stream of his visual work posing as almost an autobiography, revealing a quiet intimate tour through an inner life that feels in direct contrast to a famously loud and public existence.

Andy Warhol – Andy Warhol Prints, book 2003
"For a collector, not only do these books offer a wildly diverse tour through a favorite artist’s complete range of expression in a particular medium, but they also offer a critical component of authenticity..."
Andy Warhol – Andy Warhol Prints, book interior pages

Many times these gorgeously printed catalogues will have original stone lithographs included, made by the artist specifically for the publication. For Bolivian artist Graciela Rodo Boulanger, her exquisite sensitivities and humor can be seen in eight loose book-sized prints ready to grace empty walls as a series. Furthermore, the mainly black and white illustrations in the book, which shows all her prints from 1961-1972, lend an elegant and somber quality to her work, calling attention to the delicate mood infused within her unique style. The book has sophisticated classic typography, is cloth bound and completed with artistic natural brown endpaper, making the entirety an object of beauty in and of itself.

Boulanger – Rodo Boulanger Gravures 1961-1972, book 1973
Boulanger – Rodo Boulanger Gravures 1961-1972, book interior pages

This is just a brief look into the many catalogue raisonné books to peruse in our collection, an introduction to a layered field in the art world of which you may not have yet investigated. In addition to providing complete medium-specific retrospectives of some of art history’s most important figures, these books present compelling forces of expression akin to a tidal wave of an artist’s particular timbre of voice— an incomparable way to experience the presence of a visionary creator.

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