Posted October 12, 2000.
The completely revised, updated, and expanded second edition of Photographers, A Sourcebook for Historical Research , edited by Peter E. Palmquist, contains a half dozen useful articles on researching vintage photographs and photographers, but what makes it a must for photography collectors everywhere is the bibliography of directories of photographers which comprises about three quarters of the book. The bibliography lists hundreds of international, national, regional and local directories of photographers from regions as remote as Curacao, Mauritius, and New Hampshire (just kidding).
If you're researching a photographer and you know the country or region where he was active, Photographers, A Sourcebook for Historical Research should be the first book you check to see which directories might list him. As with art and artists, photographs that turn out to be by better known photographers, even when they're only known within the regions where they photographed, have substantially more value than those by lesser-knowns, so you're well served to identify names and locate biographical information whenever possible.
Photographers, A Sourcebook for Historical Research edited by Peter E. Palmquist. Carl Mautz Publishing, Nevada City, CA, 2000, hardbound or softbound, 154 pages, 8 1/2 by 11 inches, $65 hardbound, $40 softbound. Available from Carl Mautz Publishing, 228 Commercial St. #522, Nevada City, CA 95959 or call 1.530.478.1610. You can also order directly from the Carl Mautz Publishing website.
Eli Wilner of Eli Wilner and Company in New York City has pretty much waged and won a one-company campaign to elevate the status of American frames and frame makers to their rightful places in American art history. Until Wilner came along, all but a handful of people ignored the frames and only paid attention to the art that they surrounded. As recently as twenty to thirty years ago, original vintage frames were being discarded on a regular basis and replaced with whatever mouldings happened to be popular or fashionable at the time. This wholesale destruction of period frames no longer takes place.
Perhaps the culmination of Wilner and Company's efforts on behalf of American frames is the publication of The Gilded Edge, The Art of the Frame , a scholarly and pictorial history of American frames, compiled by Wilner, that also looks great on the coffee table. Essays by scholars like William Gerdts, Suzanne Smeaton, and Sally Mills are accompanied by beautiful color plates and vintage images that illustrate the importance of the frame as an American art form.
The Gilded Edge, The Art of the Frame compiled by Eli Wilner. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2000, hardbound, dust jacket, 204 pages, 10 by 12 inches, $60. Available at bookstores and museum shops. Also available at the Chronicle Books website.
Index to Nineteenth Century American Art Periodicals , edited by Mary Morris Schmidt, is a two volume set that indexes over 27,000 articles and advertisements from 43 of America's most influential 19th century art periodicals. The value of this reference for art dealers and collectors is that it's a great tool for researching and tracking thousands of 19th century works of art, artists, and art exhibitions, especially those that are American. Rather than having to page through hundreds of individual issues of rare periodicals in hopes of locating worthwhile information about the life and accomplishments of a particular artist, this research can now be completed in a matter of minutes with the Index to Nineteenth Century American Art Periodicals .
In an interview with publisher Peter Hastings Falk, Falk gave an example of how an art dealer, while using the index, found references to a particular painting in his inventory and, by reading the articles cited in the index, realized that the painting was much more important than he had initially thought. Based on his findings, the dealer was able to price the painting substantially higher than he had expected to when he first acquired it. This is how art reference books make money for dealers and collectors. Always remember the ancient Chinese proverb: "She who neglects to research her art always sells too cheaply."
Index to Nineteenth Century American Art Periodicals edited by Mary Morris Schmidt. Sound View Press, Madison, CT, 1999. Two volumes, hardbound, 1584 pages, 8 3/4 by 11 1/4 inches, $245. Available from Sound View Press, P. O. Box 833, Madison, CT 06443 or call 1.800.278.4274. Also available from the Sound View Press website.