Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Ins and Outs of Exhibit Catalogues

By: John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections

I’m sure you’ve all seen them. Books in a gift shop which discuss a specific exhibit in a museum, sometimes small, sometimes not. Either way, if you like the art, chances are you’ll learn more about the art and artist if you purchase an exhibit catalogue.
They’re usually written by scholars in the field and include much more information than you might find in the exhibit. But there’s a lot that goes on behind-the-scenes before you, the visitor, see them on a shelf. Articles have to be written, images have to be collected, proofs have to be sent to the lending institutions, and edit, upon edit, upon edit to get the final product readable by someone who isn’t an art historian.

Mrs. Abbott Lawrence Rotch, 1903. By John Singer Sargent. Image courtesy of the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE
That’s what we’re doing right now with the upcoming exhibit, John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women. Since we’ve been preparator-less for about six months and I handle rights and reproduction requests for NYSHA’s collection at Fenimore Art Museum, I was asked by Paul D’Ambrosio and Michelle Murdock to work on gathering the images. All of the paintings that are being loaned for the exhibit will be included in the catalogue and Paul and Dr. Patricia Hills are writing the text to accompany the images. Trust me, if you like Sargent, you’ll like the catalogue. I know from personal experience that Paul is great at teaching people about art and artists.

John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Praise of Women opens in May and runs through December and I invite you all to come and see it (and buy a catalogue too). You’ll be in for a treat since we’ll have Empire Waists, Bustles and Lace in the gallery right next to Sargent and can see examples of the fashions during the 19th-century.

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