Watson Library has been busy digitizing its collection of auction catalogs from New York’s esteemed American Art Association. In existence from 1883-1929 (when it merged with Anderson Auction Company), the Association operated the American Art Galleries (originally located at 23rd Street then relocated to Madison Avenue and 56th Street), which hosted important public art exhibitions and sales, and helped promote American art in general. Browsing through these digital collections gives the viewer an insight into the tastes of collectors during the Gilded Age. Prominent individuals who sold their collections at the Galleries include Mary J. Morgan (second wife of Charles Morgan), Robert Walter Weir (artist and educator), Samuel Latham Mitchill Barlow (an American composer, pianist and art critic), and many more.
One highlight is the catalog of Tadama Hayashi’s collection of paintings, water colors, pastels, drawings and prints. Mr. Hayashi was born in Japan but spent the majority of his life in Paris, where he established an art firm. He was passionate about the art of both the East and West. He amassed his collection in part through exchanging Japanese art with the art of his friends (who included artists like Monet and Degas), both parties finding fascination in the works held by the other. As a result of his unique position, he was made Chief Commissioner of the Japanese exhibit of the 1900 World’s Fair and, following its success, a Commander of the Legion of Honor by the French Government. The exhibition of his collection opened on January 3rd, 1913, with the auction taking place on January 8th and 9th, and was described by the New York Times as “one of the most interesting exhibitions of the season”. Here is a Renoir from the catalog:
And here is another by Michel Manzi:
Another captivating catalog is that of William Merritt Chase’s private collection of paintings and water colors. A prominent American artist, with works held by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chase was also well-respected for his taste in and knowledge of art. This unique collection comprises works from around the world which Chase selected irrespective of the renown (or lack thereof) of the creators. Chase did not buy art with the intention of reselling it and, in demonstrating his fondness for each picture, when asked which of these works were his favorites, responded “I have eight children, I love them all alike!” Prior to the exhibition an art critic wrote “If the public does not take advantage of this sale and show its appreciation it will show that it does not care for good pictures”. One such picture is this still life:
Browse all the American Art Association catalogs here.