Preface and Acknowledgments

  • Aimee Marcereau DeGalan

Art has the power to do many things, but it is only activated when shared with a community. Such was the genesis of this catalogue of French paintings and pastels, begun so many years ago. This publication marks the seventh volume in the long-term Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art project to publish a series of catalogues systematically documenting its remarkable collections from around the world. Twelve years in production, the French paintings catalogue encompasses the most up-to-date scholarship and careful conservation examination of the museum’s collection of 106 French paintings and pastels from the 1600s to 1945, including the recent gift of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterworks from the Henry and Marion Bloch family. Bringing together the collective scholarship and scientific and technical studies of more than thirty-five leading scholars, these efforts facilitate the first in-depth look, both physical and intellectual, at the Nelson-Atkins important collection of French pictures. Because of the museum’s Midwestern location, its collections remain surprisingly little known to scholars and general audiences outside the field. This awareness, coupled with new directions in the field of publishing, allowed us to consider a digital format for the catalogue. Released serially, it will be the first of its kind at the museum, and it will be free and open access to all.

The decision to move to a digital platform from a more traditional book form presented its own set of challenges. As this was the museum’s first attempt in this format, we sought advice from other colleagues with an active digital presence, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. Serving as a beta-tester for the Getty’s digital platform helped refine our thinking of how best to present our material, yet with no internal publications department and limited information technology (IT) staff, we had many hurdles to overcome. Thanks to support from the Kress Foundation, we were able to bring on a digital developer and digital assistant, allowing us not only to move forward with our digital format but also to customize the experience.

The highly interdisciplinary nature of the project called on the commitment of staff and scholars both inside and outside of the institution. The combination of these efforts, the timeline, and in some cases, the technical equipment presented many challenges from both an intellectual and an organizational standpoint. For example, the investigation of a painting underneath Exit from the Theater, attributed to Honoré Daumier (after 1863), led to a trip to Cornell University in the middle of winter to utilize their powerful synchrotron in order to better visualize the underlying composition and further clarify the nature of the pigments. Scanning necessitated work in shifts, and it occurred around the clock. However, we believe the discoveries made in the wee hours of the night, illuminated in the respective technical and curatorial entries herein, made the trip worthwhile.

Through all of these endeavors, we advanced our understanding of well-known works. Among these is Vincent van Gogh’s Olive Trees, painted in two distinct sessions in June and September of 1889, which we now see as a transitional work anticipating the stylized brushwork of his related pictures painted later that summer and fall. We also deepened our appreciation for less well-known artists and their works, including Armand Guillaumin’s early landscape of the outskirts of Paris, painted around 1876–1877, with its brilliant dashes of color; and Emile Bernard’s compelling portrait of his grandmother from 1887, with its flattened forms outlined in the artist’s pioneering cloissonist style. Often overlooked, but revisited here anew, both artists played important roles in the development of modern art in terms of their bold use of color, form, and space.

In the end, we developed personal connections to pictures that took on new meaning within the last years of this catalogue’s production. In 1915, when Claude Monet began work on his large-scale triptych Water Lilies (ca. 1915–1926), of which the Nelson-Atkins painting comprises the right-hand panel—an effort, not unlike this catalogue, that was twelve years in the making—he lamented the enormity of the task and hoped he would finish it if he remained healthy.1"Je poursuis mon idée de grande décoration. C’est une bien grosse chose que j’aie entreprise, surtout à mon âge, mais je ne désespère pas d’y arriver, si je conserve la santé." Monet to Raymond Koechlin, January 15, 1915, quoted in Pierre Georgel, Monet: Le cycle des Nymphéas, exh. cat. (Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1999), 222, as cited in Simon Kelly’s essay on NAMA’s Water Lilies within this publication. Moreover, while working against the backdrop of war, he hoped it would inspire “a refuge of peaceful meditation.“2Roger Marx, "Les Nymphéas de M. Claude Monet," Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4, no. 1 (June 1909): 529, as cited in Simon Kelly’s essay on NAMA’s Water Lilies within this publication. This becomes all the more poignant now as we write during a pandemic not only of health but also of racial aggression. We share Monet’s wish, and we hope with this digitally launched, open-access catalogue that you find a space to revisit old favorites anew, and develop new ones, freely and often.

Acknowledgments

We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of the Mellon-Frick-Rothschild Publication Fund; Adelaide Cobb Ward in honor of Donald J. Hall’s Retirement; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, for an endowment in support of scientific research; the National Endowment for the Arts, for a grant supporting the research and development of the catalogue; the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, for awarding us a Digital Resources Grant for the development of the digital publishing platform; and the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation, for a grant to expand the awareness, scholarship, and understanding of the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art and the creation of this catalogue. We also thank the benevolence of the James Sight Fund, Jean McGreevy Green Fund, and Albert C. Bean Fund.

Special thanks for the steady support and guidance of Catherine L. Futter, former director of curatorial affairs, and William Keyse Rudolph, the current deputy director of curatorial affairs.

We are obliged to former Nelson-Atkins associate curators of European Art, Simon Kelly and Nicole R. Myers for their foundational direction and vision of this project, and to curatorial associate Meghan Gray for her continued leadership, research, and unwavering commitment to seeing the catalogue through to publication.

Technical studies of the paintings and pastels were conducted by an exceptional team of conservators. We especially thank Mary Schafer, paintings conservator and manager of the Mellon Conservation Science Endowment, who has led the conservation effort from the beginning and brought numerous discoveries to light. Nancy Heugh, of Heugh-Edmondson Conservation Services and the first paper conservator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, compiled early technical reports on the pastels and provided valuable insights and observations, while Rachel Freeman, associate paper conservator, who joined the Nelson team in 2018, continued examinations and adapted Nancy’s work for the catalogue. In addition to performing numerous treatments, Diana Jaskierny, paintings conservation fellow, brought a careful eye and enthusiasm for technical research to each of her examinations. We also thank Nathan Sutton, former third-year graduate intern, who examined and treated several paintings in anticipation of this catalogue.

We are indebted to Mellon science advisor John Twilley, whose guidance and analytical expertise has contributed significant new research to the catalogue. Johanna Bernstein of Rutgers University assisted in early pigment identification for two scientific projects, Monet’s Water Lilies and Daumier’s Exit from the Theater.

For the detailed and sometimes tedious research that has nonetheless been essential for this effort, we are indebted to our dedicated project assistants past and present, including Brigid M. Boyle, Kenneth Brummel, Danielle Hampton Cullen, and Glynnis Stevenson. We also thank Brigid M. Boyle, Bloch Family Foundation Doctoral Fellow, for her research and scholarly catalogue entries on the Bloch Collection. We are eternally grateful for Stephanie Alger, Kress digital publishing assistant and Quire guru, not only for her ever-expanding knowledge of Quire, but also her organizational skills and prowess in attempting to teach a bunch of curators how to code.

Nelson-Atkins curatorial colleagues deserve our thanks for their research and support, including Rima Girnius, former associate curator; Blythe Sobol and Maggie Keenan, Starr collection catalogue research assistants; and Ian Kennedy, the former Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Curator of European Arts, who ideated the French paintings catalogue. Where would we be without the invaluable administrative support of former European Art department assistants Tiffany Hamblin, Karin Jones, and Emily Leck? We are also grateful for the superior advice, networks, and archival research of our provenance specialist, MacKenzie Mallon.

Extra thanks to the IT team at the Nelson-Atkins, especially Doug Allen, former chief information officer, for his vision and networking skills as the digital catalogue took off; Jack Hope, former specialist in application and web systems, who also became a specialist in Quire; James Schwartz, former web application developer, for his tech-savviness and problem solving; Shelly Xiong, software developer, for her analytical thinking and adaptability; Bryan DeWitt, director of information services, and Nicholas Davis, former head of information technology, for advice as we planned, implemented, and hired contractors for Quire.

We are grateful for the many contributions from the knowledgeable conservation staff: Kate Garland, senior object conservator; Joe Rogers, conservation associate; Stephanie Spence, objects fellow; Saori Lewis, associate photography conservator; Gene Cooper, conservation department coordinator; R. Bruce North, museum volunteer; Scott Heffley, former senior paintings conservator; and Elisabeth Batchelor, former head of conservation.

Many external colleagues generously shared technical information that advanced our conservation research: Adam Webster, Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales; Francesca Casadio, Gloria Groom, and Allison Langley, Art Institute of Chicago; Barbara Buckley, Barnes Foundation; Kenneth S. Moser, Brooklyn Museum of Art; Bruno Mottin and Elisabeth Ravaud, Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France; Per Knutås, formerly Cincinnati Art Museum; Louisa Smieska and Arthur Woll, Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, Cornell University; C. Richard Johnson, Cornell University; Aviva Burnstock, Courtauld Institute of Art; Ellen Hanspach-Bernal, Aaron Steele, and Eve Straussman-Pflanzer, Detroit Institute of Arts; Elise Effman Clifford, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Helen Glanville, Hamilton Kerr Institute and Laboratory of Molecular and Structural Archaeology (CNRS/Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris); Matt Conway and Andrew C. Weislogel, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University; Alexander Kossolapov, Hermitage Museum; David Miller and Gregory Smith, Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields; Devi Ormond and Michelle Sullivan, J. Paul Getty Museum; Margje Leeuwestein, Kröller-Müller Museum; Silvia Centeno, Charlotte Hale, and Marco Leona, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Kim Broker, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University; Regis Miller, independent wood identification specialist; Anny Avirim, Jim Coddington, Michael Duffy, Ana Martins, and Chris McGlinchy, Museum of Modern Art; Larry Keith, Rachel Fenton, and Ashok Roy, National Gallery of Art, London; Michelle Facini, Sarah Fisher, Ann Hoenigswald, Douglas Lachance, Kari Rayner, and Kimberly Schenck, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Britta Nilsson, National Museum of Stockholm; Hiroyo Hakamata and Miho Takashima, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo; Patricia Favero and Elisabeth Steele, Phillips Collection; Robert G. Erdmann, Rijksmuseum/Radboud University; Claire Winfield, formerly of the Saint Louis Art Museum; Kate Smith, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard University; Travis Sawyer, University of Arizona; Michael Engel, University of Kansas; Nienke Bakker, Hannie Diependaal, Ella Hendriks, Teio Meedendorp, Kathrin Pilz, and Louis van Tilborg, Van Gogh Museum; and Eric Gordon, Walters Art Museum.

We extend sincere thanks to the staff of the many departments in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, including Roberta Wagener, library specialist, access services, for her amazing ability to find obscure sources and keep track of hundreds of interlibrary loan requests; Tara Laver, archivist, and Holly Wright, former archivist, for always welcoming catalogue researchers and having answers at their fingertips; Marilyn Carbonell (librarian emerita), Amelia Nelson, (head of library and archives), and the entire library staff for their support in conducting research and obtaining references; grant writers Ann Friedman (emerita), and Emily Leck, who helped us craft irresistible proposals to bring in funding; development staff for campaigning for funds for the catalogue; Christine Droll, database and collections registrar, for her help with the sometimes-quirky collections management system and for answering questions of acquisition; Stephanie Knappe, Samuel Sosland Curator of American Art, for her advice on publishing a scholarly collection catalogue; the preparation staff for letting us take photos of paintings’ versos during installations; graphic design staff for their advice on the style of the digital publication; Karrah Whitlock (manager of talent acquisition and retention), Kelly Summers (vice president), and the entire human resources staff for keeping the catalogue staffed with interns and personnel; Stacey Sherman and the Fair Use Group for advice on rights and reproductions; Zak Meek, Joshua Ferdinand, Mona Vassos, and the staff of imaging services for photographing more than one hundred works of art; and the staff of the marketing and communications department for celebrating the launch of the catalogue.

We are grateful to the unerring eye and organization of Stephen Robert Frankel (translator and copy editor), Jessica Skwire Routhier (copy editor), and Wendy Partridge (conservation editor). Any errors that remain are ours alone.

Thank you to the contract researchers who visited archives on our behalf: Lauren Cannady, Grace Chuang, Anne-Elisabeth Heurtaux, Lauren Jimerson, Cindy Kang, Sue Rimmington, Laura Sanders, Anne Sohier, Johanna Steinhaus, and Francesca Whitlum-Cooper.

We are especially grateful to our many interns who provided significant research and file organization throughout the creation of the catalogue: Devin Abbott, Alexandria Asher, Carmelita Bahamonde, Genevieve Barnes, Katelyn Bennett, Taylor Carr-Howard, Anni Chang, Elizabeth Davis, Maria Dlabick, Lacey Dickerson, Bethany Ediger, Bailey Grimm, Muriel Hansen, Irene Hendricks, Preston Hereford, Mary Frances Ivey, Molly Kaderka, Tara Karaim, Noelani Kirchner, Lucas Latimer, Samantha Ludwig, Kirsten Marples, Gracie Pack, Laura Peterson, Melissa Powell, Megan Seiler, Emily Stubbs, Maegan Stracy, Sarah Sylvester Williams, Sarah Taggart, Melissa Tychonievich, Anna Underwood, Meaghan Walsh, Catherine Ward, Kelsey Webster, Ashleigh Yallaly, and Anna Zell. We also thank the volunteers who donated considerable time to our project: Shayla Betts, Pegeen Blank, Ann Friedman, Ingelise Koenig, Hannah Madden, Laura Nelson (Laura Nelson Kirkwood must be smiling down on you!), Megan Sawyer, Bridget Shields, Alicia Walker.

For their scholarship and eloquence, we thank our patient outside catalogue authors: Laura Auricchio, Joseph Baillio, Aimée Brown Price, Kathryn Calley Galitz, Elizabeth C. Childs, Simon Kelly, Asher Miller, Nicole R. Myers, Richard Rand, Kristel Smentek, and Stanton Thomas. Special thanks to the many libraries, archives, museums, auction houses, and dealers who helped with our research, including the Archives Générales du Royaume de Belgique, Brussels; Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA); Association de la Noblesse du Royaume de Belgique, Brussels; Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris; Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris; Jayne Warman, Cezanne catalogue raisonné; Daniel Jarmai, Christie’s Archive, London; the Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Œuvres d’Art (CINOA); Department of Archives and Innovative Information Technology, Center for Research and Restoration of Museums of France; Paul-Louis Durand-Ruel and Flavie Durand-Ruel, Durand-Ruel et Cie.; Beverly Carter, Estate of Paul Mellon; Patty Pei, E. V. Thaw; Maud Guichané, Fondation Custodia; Karen Meyer-Roux and Mahsa Hatam, Archives and Special Collections, Getty Research Institute; Casey Kane Monahan, Harvard Art Museums; Bruno Jarry; Dr. Fred Leeman, independent art historian; Jennifer Tonkovich, The Morgan Library and Museum; Sedona Heidinger, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Virginie Frelin-Cartigny and Amandine Royer, Musée Besançon; Brigitte Monti, Musées d’art et d’histoire de Genève; Eugenia Alonso Asensio, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza; Samantha Muir, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Frances Fowle, National Gallery Scotland and University of Edinburgh; Emily Talbot, Norton Simon Museum; Janine Sinizergues, independent art historian; Sotheby’s; State Library of Victoria, Australia; Darragh O’Donoghue, Tate Library and Archive; Manuscript and Special Collections, University of Nottingham Libraries; Wildenstein and Co.; and Sophie Pietrie and Sylvie Crussard, Wildenstein Plattner Institute. We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of the department of the Art of Europe, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for their help with guidelines and formatting at the beginning of this project.

Our thanks to Greg Albers, digital publications manager, and the J. Paul Getty Trust for always being available to answer questions and for openly sharing Quire, their digital publishing platform. We are grateful for the creative work of Michael Taggart, developer extraordinaire, for his congeniality and swiftness adding special features to Quire on our behalf.

Finally, we are especially thankful to the leadership of the Nelson-Atkins Museum: Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell director and CEO; Marc Wilson, director emeritus; and Karen Christiansen, chief operating officer, for their unwavering support and leadership through the birth, growth, and publication of the museum’s first digital scholarly collection catalogue.

Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, PhD
Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts
doi: 10.37764/78973.6.30

Notes

  1. "Je poursuis mon idée de grande décoration. C’est une bien grosse chose que j’aie entreprise, surtout à mon âge, mais je ne désespère pas d’y arriver, si je conserve la santé." Monet to Raymond Koechlin, January 15, 1915, quoted in Pierre Georgel, Monet: Le cycle des Nymphéas, exh. cat. (Paris: Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1999), 222, as cited in Simon Kelly’s essay on NAMA’s Water Lilies within this publication.
  2. Roger Marx, "Les Nymphéas de M. Claude Monet," Gazette des Beaux-Arts 4, no. 1 (June 1909): 529, as cited in Simon Kelly’s essay on NAMA’s Water Lilies within this publication.