A Catalogue of French Paintings - Vol. 1

A Catalogue of French Paintings - Vol. 1

A Catalogue of French Paintings - Vol. 1

A Catalogue of French Paintings - Vol. 1

Excerpt

I regarded it as a signal honor when Francis Henry Taylor and Harry B. Wehle accepted me as their collaborator at the Metropolitan Museum, with the title of Senior Research Fellow in the Paintings Department. To work at the same time for the "Louvre of America" and for the Louvre itself is indeed a rare privilege. My task was to make the catalogue of the French pictures. The commission was an exciting one. Thanks to the efforts of the last two curators, Harry B. Wehle and Theodore Rousseau, Jr., who have systematically enriched the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sections, the French collection of the Museum is very comprehensive, ranging from the fifteenth-century primitives, of which there are a relatively large number, all the way to the contemporary school of Paris. It includes, furthermore, along with famous masterpieces, works by artists still to be identified or still little known. The catalogue of such a collection amounts to a panorama of the whole of French painting, in its slow, sure growth over more than five centuries.

The large number of pictures necessitated the division of the catalogue into two parts: this volume, which includes paintings by artists who reached maturity about 1800, and the volume to follow, in which pictures of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century will be included.

The catalogue of the French school is to take its place in the series begun in 1940 by the volume of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine paintings and continued in 1947 by the one given over to Netherlandish and German primitives. Accordingly, there were models on which to pattern this book--models which have passed the test and have been rapidly and widely appreciated. Actually, one finds in them two original characteristics, an agreeable combination of scholarly data with comments useful to the general public and the inclusion in the bibliography of brief critical résumés, which enliven that section of a catalogue usually so desperately dull.

As in the earlier volumes the relatively meaningless expression Attributed to and School of have been replaced by a series of more specific terms showing exactly how close a given picture really is to the painter with whose name it has been associated. These classifications range from Workshop of for a painting presumably executed in the lifetime of the master, and perhaps under his personal supervision, through Follower of and Imitator of to Copy after. The prefaces to the two earlier volumes supply a number of other clues to the unusual aspects of these catalogues.

The excellent models already published are not the only things that from the very start have expedited my work. I have had the benefit of the active assistance of the authors of the earlier volumes, Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. They put all their knowledge and experience completely at my disposal. They took on the thankless and very difficult task of polishing the form . . .

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