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.