Catalogue raisonné

A catalogue raisonné is an exhaustive book on the entire known body of work produced by an individual artist up until the year of the book’s publication. This type of book is the product of years of scholarly research, and written by recognised experts on the work of the artist.

The provenance, size and condition report of each piece of art is included along with detailed photographs. There are lines of enquiry that are pursued in such a book. E.g. the author may:

  • establish the artistic development throughout the life of the artist
  • confirm or refute claims made about the artist
  • contextualise the artist in his/her age
  • extrapolate on the historical and cultural significance of the artist’s work

A catalogue raisonné might also deal with less abstract topics, such as how an artist’s signature evolves over the years, or which materials the artist has come to favour over other materials. It might even expose known falcifications or frauds of the art.

A catalogue raisonnés are seldom seen as the final authority on the works of an artist. New research and laboratory techniques continue to add knowledge to the oevre of an artist. While the sum of an artist’s production is finite, it turns out that many artists are far more prolific than we imagine. Sketches and other preliminary work crops up long after the death of an artist, and that means that there is scope for appending the findings to existing catalogue raisonnés.