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Getty Research Institute partners with the National Gallery for British art sales databases
Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727 - 1788), Portrait of James Christie (1730 - 1803), 1778. Oil on canvas, 126 x 101.9 cm, 70.PA.16. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Earlier this year, the Getty Research Institute added nearly 100,000 art sale records from more than 1,200 British auction catalogs of the period 1780–1800 to its free online art historical research resources. These important art sale records are now part of the Getty Provenance Index® databases, which currently contain more than 1.5 million records taken from source material such as archival inventories, auction catalogs, and dealer stock books.

In London this week (June 21 and 22), a major conference co-organized by the Getty Research Institute and the National Gallery, London will examine this pivotal time in art history—a critical period when London established itself as the hub of the international art trade. The addition of these British sales records to the Getty Provenance Index® is a major impetus for this conference because it adds—significantly and strategically—to approximately half a million records from the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia spanning 1780 to 1820 that were already included. The comprehensive scope of data from several European countries now makes it possible for scholars to fruitfully examine how integrated the European art market was during this period. Among other topics, the London conference will tackle the question: was there a truly integrated European art market around 1800 or were local markets still relatively independent?

“The addition of this data to the Getty Provenance Index® gives researchers a greater ability to study fluctuations and trends in art commerce,” said Thomas W. Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute. “Given the interconnectedness of national art markets, the potential for this research is wide-reaching—filling in provenance gaps relating to the art markets of Great Britain, as well as dispersed French collections, and the development of cultural networks throughout Europe.”

As a result of a collaborative research project, The Rise of the London Art Market, between the Getty Research Institute’s Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance (PSCP) and the National Gallery, sales catalogs from 1780 to 1800 were located in British libraries, cataloged, and entered into the Getty Provenance Index®. While the Getty Provenance Index® already held many British sales records from the early 19th century, the addition of 100,000 art sale records in these crucial decades—when London became the funnel through which most European art flowed—greatly expands the importance and usefulness of the database. To accomplish this, a team from the National Gallery searched for relevant catalogs in the collections of about 150 libraries and archives across the UK and also obtained copies of catalogs from institutions in the U.S., France, the Netherlands, and other countries. Ultimately, catalog copies from about 60 different libraries and archives were used for the transcription and indexing part of the project. The National Gallery team created bibliographic records about each catalog and entered all of the art sale records into the Provenance Index. Editing, verification, and enhancements of the data were done by a team at the GRI.

“In the field of provenance, a universally accessible database is critically important to museum professionals, scholars, and archivists,” said Christian Huemer, manager for the Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance at the GRI. “Through important partnerships like this one with the National Gallery, we are able to have a tremendous effect on the ability of researchers to track patterns of taste, to better understand cultural transfers, and to more fully explore the power of art markets.”

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