Catalogue raisonnes because they are revealing “all known works” typically are configured after an artist dies. As they can involve more than 5 or 10 years to compile, they are frequently completed decades after an artist’s death.
If your artist is still living or newly deceased, whereupon there is no catalogue raisonne in progress:
- Contact the artist, if he/ she is living
- Visit an art museum library and examine all catalogues and pamphlets accompanying exhibitions of the artist’s work over time. An artist’s work changes, so that you might align the work with his/ her style of work, as of a particular time period.
- Check auction catalogues offering any work with the same intent, to grow familiar with more examples of the work.
- Canvas any and all known dealers, especially the primary ones who handled the work over the longest period of time.
- Focus on the artist’s family, as often a spouse or adult child will be quite familiar with the artist’s body of work
- Contact any museum with a large body or his/ her work, curators who have focused heavily on a number of the artist’s work may have assembled a great understanding of the artist’s oeuvre. Caveat: they may or may not be willing to comment specifically on the authenticity of your artwork due to professional constraints.
- Check to learn if his/ her university was gifted the artist’s archives, especially if there are no survivor family members
- Archives of American Art, http://www.aaa.si.edu/, may have evidence in visuals such as the artist’s sketchbooks or writing about his/ her work. They have microfilmed information that your library could request via interlibrary loan http://www.aaa.si.edu/interlibraryloan/
- If a committee exists to judge the authenticity of your artist’s work, contact them and provide the information they require: photographs (digital or transparencies), all relevant descriptive information and possibly a fee
- Investigate authors who have written extensively about your artist to find who they might consider to be extremely well versed in your artist’s work.
An art appraiser is methodical and diligent. When one door closes, you must find another door to open. This is true for anyone interested in uncovering information about an artist.
Listen closely to the person’s delivery who is imparting information. If a dealer or family member or anyone you contact sounds dismissive, their response may not be reliable. This could be intentional, but more likely, it is simply because they were contacted on a day when they were overwhelmed with his/ her personal challenges. Listen with your heart, as well as your brain.
Corinne Cain of www.SavvyCollector.com
Other countries may have archives designed to gather information about artists based abroad.