Identification of paintings

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Identification of paintings


Of many of the exhibited works at the ‘impressionist’ expositions (and the Salon) it is uncertain or even unknown what painting was shown. How come? Often the name of a work is very common.

When we see for example the catalogue of the first ‘impressionist’ exposition of 1874, we see under number 99 that Monet showed ‘deux croquis’ which means two studies. Numbers 100 and 101 have the same title. The only additional information is that these were pastels. Even the Catalogue Raisonné of Wildenstein (R22) doesn’t give an indication of what works Monet did exhibit under these numbers.

When we look at the same catalogue of 1874 we see that Attendu exhibited under number 11 (and 12) ‘nature morte: cuisine’ (Eng.: still life: kitchen). Attendu painted many kitchen still lives, so that makes it hard to identify. Additionally it is indicated that it were aquarelles (Eng.: watercolours; the plural form indicates it were 2 or more works) and that they belonged to M.J.D. Sometimes through this ownership a work is better to be traced, but as Attendu disappeared in oblivion in this case it doesn’t work.

In the 8th ‘impressionist’ catalogue you will find many titles which are very common, like ‘portrait’, ‘landscape’, ‘fan’, ‘head of a woman’. When there is no or only a vague description of the showed work by art critics, the painter himself and his acquaintances, the identification is very hard. As Brettell writes: ‘the paintings by Cézanne in the (3th) exhibition (in 1877) were titled so generically (three were entitled ‘nature morte’, two ‘étude de fleurs’ and four ‘paysage: ‘étude d’après nature’), and so few descriptions of them exist in the criticism, that precise identification has eluded all scholars.’ (R2,p195)

Often an artist painted two or more paintings with the same theme. It took a long time to indicate that Monet’s ‘Boulevard des Capucines’ (1874-97) was the one now in the Pushkin Museum (R22, CR292) and not the one in Kansas City (R22, CR293; R2,p23).

When a work is not dated and when there is no significant development in the painting style the identification is also hardened. (R2,p22)

In my choices I mostly follow the suggestions of Moffett (=R2), Berson (=R90), Dayez (=87) and (indirectly) the Catalogue Raisonné. But these sources, which I highly respect, often don’t give suggestions for works that can not be identified. My main goal is to give an impression of what could have been exhibited. So I more freely combine the titles in the catalogues and the contemporary titles. Sometimes I give to compare another picture that probably resembles the picture that was exhibited. When my suggestions are of any use for further scientific research, I will be very pleased.