Category Archives: Auction Catalogs

American Art Association Auction Catalogs, a Selection II

During the Gilded Age, an association was formed in New York City with the goal of promoting and selling American art: The American Art Association. Its founders were James F. Sutton, R. Austin Robertson and Thomas E. Kirby.  The Association – formed in 1883 – held auctions beginning in 1885. In 1922, it opened the American Art Gallery.  In 1929, the AAA merged with the Anderson Auction Company forming the American Art Association-Anderson Galleries; and in 1938, it was taken over by Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc. which was bought by Sotheby’s in 1964.

Watson Library has digitized over two-hundred American Art Association auction catalogs dating from its inception in 1885 through 1927.  The catalogs represent not only American art, including an emphasis on the Barbizon school masters, but also works by major European and Asian artists.  Subject areas include: Old Masters of Dutch and Italian schools, impressionist and modern painting, miniatures, porcelain, engravings, antique and modern furniture, European arms and armor, jewelry and silver.

 Milliken sale index

The Milliken sale held on February 14th, 1902, is a good example of the scope of important modern European artists represented in the American Art Association auction catalogs.  The index for the sale includes such prominent French painters as Eugéne Delacroix (1798-1863), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and Jean François Millet (1814-1875).

Press clippings from Milliken sale

Press clippings from Milliken sale

Press clippings from this auction announce the “excellent prices” in sales including Titian’s (ca. 1485/90?–1576) Portrait of Giorgio Cornaro (1537) which sold for $42,000, and Camille Corot’s (1796-1875) St. Sebastian (1851) which sold for $20,000.

"Allée of Chestnut Trees," Alfred Sisley (1878); © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Allée of Chestnut Trees,” Alfred Sisley (1878); © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Other works by renowned European artists sold by the American Art Association include Alfred Sisley’s (1839-1899) Allée of Chestnut Trees, 1878, which was up for sale in the January 8-9th, 1913 American Art Association auction catalog and eventually bought by Robert Lehman in 1948 and given to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1978 as part of Lehman’s bequest.  The owner of this collection was Tadamasa Hayashi (1853-1906), an important ambassador for Japanese culture in France, who moved to Paris in 1878 and introduced traditional Japanese art to Europe.

In addition to provenance, the AAA catalogs are valuable for their annotations, such as the one included here for the Sisley painting noting price and buyer.


Annotated catalog

Annotated catalog

In addition to major European artists, the auction catalogs also represent important American artists such as William Merrit Chase (1949-1916), George Inness (1825-1894), Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) and John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872).  Lesser known American artists include Frederic A. Bridgman (1847-1928), born in Tuskegee, Alabama and known for his Orientalist paintings.

Decorative works, salon pictures, eastern subjects and drawings by Frederic A. Bridgman

Decorative works, salon pictures, eastern subjects and drawings by Frederic A. Bridgman

Another lesser known artist was Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919), a romanticist painter born in New York City.


From "Catalogue of modern paintings: the private collection formed by the late Frederick S. Gibbs"

From “Catalogue of modern paintings: the private collection formed by the late Frederick S. Gibbs”

The Met owns several Blakelock landscape paintings including A Waterfall, Moonlight (1886)

“A Waterfall, Moonlight,” Ralph Albert Blakelock (1886)

The provenance for this work includes it being sold in an American Art Association sale held on January 20th, 1911.

In addition to the thousands of important works exhibited and sold by the American Art Association from the late nineteenth century up to the 1920’s, it is fascinating to see the many important American collectors both buying and selling in these auctions, reflecting the prosperity of the Gilded Age and the enthusiasm for current American and European art sold and disseminated during this thriving period of modern art.

To read about other American Art Association auction catalogs, see this Highlights post.

Connecting the Collections: Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet (1832-1883) is a seminal figure in 19th century French painting. Two works from 1863 — “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” and “Olympia” — caused great controversy but also earned him the esteem of many other young French artists (such as Courbet, Cézanne, Monet and Gauguin). He continued to inspire and infuriate throughout his career, and is now regarded as one of the great artistic figures of his time.

The Digital Collections has a significant amount of material relating to Manet, material that spans across a number of collections. For instance, in the Manuscripts collection we have a letter titled, “E. Manet letter to ‘Mon cher Duret’, undated”:

Manet to Duret

Manet to Duret

The “cher Duret” being addressed here is the art critic, collector, and dealer Théodore Duret (1838-1927). Duret was an early advocate and supporter of the Impressionists, and an ally and friend of Manet’s. In 1868, Manet painted a portrait of his friend, which is now owned by the Petit Palais in Paris. Manet received a letter of thanks for the portrait from Duret that amusingly said, “I find your chap very gallant.” (1)

In our Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection, we have a 2003 exhibition catalog titled, Manet and the American Civil War: the battle of the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama:

Manet and the American Civil War

Manet and the American Civil War

In a press release available on the Met’s website about this exhibition, it says, “In June of 1864, an important episode in the American Civil War took place in international waters off the coast of Cherbourg, France. The duel between the U.S.S. Kearsarge and the C.S.S. Alabama created a sensation in Europe and America alike, and caught the imagination of the French artist Édouard Manet (1832-83), who made a painting of the battle before rushing to Boulogne to see the victorious Kearsarge. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently acquired Manet’s portrait of the Kearsarge and to celebrate the acquisition will present a small exhibition devoted to the battle, Manet’s response, and the effect of Manet’s paintings on his immediate friends.”

From the Knoedler and Company Exhibition Catalogs collection, we have another exhibition catalog, Exhibition of nineteenth century French painters: at the galleries of M. Knoedler & Company, June 26 to July 21, 1923:

Exhibition of nineteenth century French painters

Exhibition of nineteenth century French painters

Though not devoted exclusively to the work of Manet, nine works of Manet’s were exhibited, and this catalog includes handwritten notes next to six of these paintings. For instance, next to catalog number 23, “Fillette à sa Toilette,” there is a pencil drawn arrow pointing to the number and the word “new” written next to it.

Finally, in our Auction Catalogs collection, we have, Catalogue de tableaux, pastels, études, dessins, gravures par Édouard Manet, et dépendant de sa succession: dont la vente aura lieu Hôtel Drouot, salles nos 8 et 9, les lundi 4 et mardi 5 février 1884, à deux heures:

Vente Manet, February 1884

Vente Manet, February 1884

This auction took place from Monday, February 4th to Tuesday, February 5th at Hôtel Drouot in Paris. In addition to a list of items sold, there are handwritten price notes by many of the items in the catalog.

To browse more material related to Manet in the digital collections, click here.

(1) Portrait of Théodore Duret. Retrieved from on April 6, 2014.

American Art Association Auction Catalogs, a Selection

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:

"Deux Filles," Auguste Renoir

“Deux Filles,” Auguste Renoir

And here is another by Michel Manzi:

"Portrait," Micehl Manji

“Portrait,” 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:

Antoine Vallon, "Still Life"

“Still Life,” Antoine Vallon

Browse all the American Art Association catalogs here.

Connecting the Collections: Eugène Delacroix

Currently the Digital Collections has 20 different collections. Searches can be done throughout the Digital Collections as a whole, or they can be done within specific collections.  Some subjects and artists appear throughout the Digital Collections, appearing in several different individual collections. One such artist is Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), the renowned French Romantic painter. Works by and about him appear throughout the Digital Collections, and we will look at a few of these items here.


This reproduction of the famous Delacroix self-portrait appears on the cover of an exhibition catalog entitled, Concerning Delacroix and Jules Breton, apropos of a special exhibition of their work at the galleries of M. Knoedler and Company (1888), which appears in the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs collection. The catalog begins with this adulatory assessment of Delacroix’s significance, “If we may say, with an acute contemporaneous critic, that Delacroix represents the supreme, the last, and the highest manifestation of the French genius in the domain of art…” This is how many 19th-century critics viewed Delacroix, as we will see again later in the post.

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection, we have a 200-plus page 1991 exhibition catalog, Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863): paintings, drawings, and prints from North American collections:


This catalog features essays by art historian and Delacroix specialist Lee Johnson, as well as many reproductions of Delacroix’s work.

From the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection, we have Catalogue of celebrated paintings by great French masters, brought to this country from Paris, for exhibition only (1887), which includes a lengthy biographical sketch of Delacroix. It too begins with an adulatory assessment of the artist: “Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, the greatest, noblest, and most illustrious painter of the French school of the nineteenth century…”


Finally, in the Auction Catalogs collection, we have Catalogue de sculptures originales: terres cuites, platres, bronzes groupes, statuettes, bustes, médaillons, esquisses, tableaux et dessins par J.-B. Carpeaux, dessins par Eug. Delacroix (1913), in which a number of Delacroix drawings were being auctioned.


Delacroix, like several artists in the Digital Collections, appears in a number of different collections, from exhibition catalogs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications, the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs, and the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collections, to auction catalogs in our Auction Catalogs collection. We will try to “connect the Collections” in future posts as well, focusing on artists and subjects represented in a number of different collections within the Digital Collections.