Researching Your Art: Exhibition Guides and Provenance
Facts about an artwork's history can prove elusive. Titles of works may change over the years. Plus, dimensions often vary slightly, depending on how measurements were taken. For tracking provenance (the location of an artwork prior to its current ownership), start with exhibition guides in print. Consult auction indexes, collection catalogs or inventories, catalogues raisonné, and archival files and records.
For nineteenth-century and earlier works, search the Smithsonian American Art Museum's online Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index—a list of 950 exhibitions held in this country through 1876. You can also consult the following exhibition guides:
The Annual Exhibition Record of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Madison, Conn.: Soundview Press, 1988–1989.
Cowdrey, Mary Bartlett, ed. American Academy of Fine Arts & American Art-Union, 1816–1852. New York: New-York Historical Society, 1953.
Marlor, Clark S., comp. A History of the Brooklyn Art Association with an Index of Exhibitions. New York: James F. Carr, 1970.
Naylor, Maria, comp. National Academy of Design Exhibition Record: 1826–1860, 1861–1900. New York: Kennedy Galleries, 1973.
Perkins Jr., Robert F., and William J. Gavin, III, comps. Boston Athenaeum Art Exhibition Index 1827–1874. Boston: Library of Boston Athenaeum, 1980.
Rutledge, Anna Wells, ed. Cumulative Record of Exhibition Catalogues: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1955.
Pictured: Jack Levine, Art Gallery, about 1942, lithograph, 10 1/4 x 8 1/2 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Baum in memory of Edith Gregor Halpert