Register for the CRSA Conference

2015 Conference

The CRSA is thrilled to announce that we will be holding a two-day conference on the practicalities of catalogue raisonné work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York on June 13 and 14, 2015. The conference will cover topics germane to the catalogue raisonné scholar including research methodologies, funding, databases, legal issues, publishing, outreach, and more. Panels and roundtables will include members of our own scholarly community as well as outside experts in supporting fields.

The conference will allow CRSA members to explore current best practices in an atmosphere of dialogue and scholarly support.

A preliminary program is available here. If you have not already registered, you may do so by emailing Conference registration is $100 for CRSA members and $150 for non-members.

Project Profile: Henri Michaux Catalogue Raisonné

essay on henri michaux CR

Artist: Henri Michaux (1899 – 1994)
Scope: Comprehensive
Years Covered: 1925 -1984
Database: custom-designed software
Print or Digital: digital
Schedule: Research has been on going since 2001. A publication has not yet been set.
Key Staff: Micheline Phankim, Rainer M. Mason, Franck Leibovici

CRSA:  This project will be the first catalogue raisonné on Henri Michaux. What are some of the project’s primary resources?
HMCR: We used the studio collection as a basis, then, the photos archives of the previous galleries, like the Point Cardinal Gallery, in Paris.

CRSA:  What specific challenges do you face in researching Michaux?
HMCR: Michaux did not provide any dates, and he did not give titles to his paintings and drawings. So finding an accurate date is here a strong issue.  We can not rely on dates published in museum catalogues, because depending on the publication, the same painting may get different dates, and because these dates were given by either the art dealer or by a collector not paying much attention to this issue. Also, generic categories are not so much of a help: applying the term “Indian ink” to more than 500 works does not allow us to discriminate and go through the works. Nor the dimensions, as the size of the paper is usually standard. This is why we needed to create a software which would take into account the properties of Michaux works. For instance, tools as queries by similarities, or tagging or family resemblances will be of a great help for future investigations. Additionally, most of the works between 1925 and the 50’s are largely un-documented. We have lists of galleries or museums exhibitions, which happened during that time, but with with very few images or descriptions of the works which were exhibited.

CRSA:  How do you think this research will help change our understanding of Michaux’s work?
HMCR: The catalogue raisonné allows us to put works next to each other and set up series and family resemblances, which is very helpful to date works which have been un-dated for years.

CRSA:  Are there plans for additional content, such as essays or appendices?
HMCR: Yes, an essay (just released) takes care of the epistemological and methodological issues of the Michaux catalogue raisonné. It has been published first in France as an autonomous book, but will be linked as an ebook to the catalogue raisonné itself: Franck Leibovici, Henri Michaux: Voir (une enquête), Paris : 2014, PUPS. ISBN : 978-2-84050-930-1

CRSA:  Once the digital publication is finalized, will you consider adapting a print version?
HMCR: The digital edition will be the main one. It is today the most relevant medium to conduct a research. A print version would be then a selection among the works, but it would not make sense to turn it into a fac simile of the the electronic edition. We would lose all the technical advantages of digital organisations (facets, tags, and so on).

For more information, please visit:
Or contact:

Suggested Reading: the Sam Francis Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings


Artist: Sam Francis (1923-1994)
Title:  Sam Francis: Catalogue Raisonné of Canvas and Panel Paintings, 1946-1994
Key Contributors:  Edited by Debra Burchett-Lere with featured essay by William C. Agee
Publisher:  University of California Press
Published Date:  2011
 0520264304  978-0520264304 0
Organized by: 
Sam Francis Foundation, Pasadena, CA
Works covered:  1,850-plus paintings on canvas and panel

CRSA: The Sam Francis Catalogue Raisonné is both a print publication for essays and texts, and a digital publication on DVD for artwork entries.  What was behind the decision to publish in this dual format?

SFCR: Working with the University of California Press at Berkeley provided an ideal atmosphere of collaboration for us to explore ideas to develop this educational project. As this was UC Press’s first artist’s catalogue raisonné they were open to exploring alternative ways of presenting information. We felt it would be important to not only offer a richly illustrated “coffee table” book with art historical texts, but to provide additional data about the artist, his work, and his life that could function as a browsable resource. The boxed set was developed to include the book and two DVDs that can be accessed on any computer (great for students and researchers without the need for the internet) with capability to search by topics, artworks, dates, exhibitions, bibliography, etc.  The DVD data can be transferred directly to the reader’s computer database so the contents be used as a research source on a daily basis.

The packaged set offers a traditional book with vibrant color images accompanying a comprehensive scholarly text by William C. Agee, as well as the most detailed, anecdote-packed biography of Sam Francis ever published. The two DVDs offer options for the reader to discover Francis’s paintings more fully through thousands of supplementary documentary photographs, essays about Francis’s paint methods and studios, examples of his writings, exhibition history, detailed bibliography, and two videos of rare film footage showing Francis at work.

With the DVDs capability of providing more comprehensive data, we were able to allow ample space for the illustrations. The reader can enlarge many of the painting images and “zoom-in” for closer study. One of the main reasons we opted for using the DVDs was the fact that we would not be as limited to text and illustration constraints with a printed book format. Therefore we were able to include additional notes and detail photographs such as signatures and inscriptions.

CRSA: How how much time was dedicated to research in advance of the publication?

SFCR: Francis did not always photograph or identify paintings over the years as he created them — so the archival records have not been the only resource for information gathering. A limited registration procedure was initiated by his studio assistants in the early 1970s that resulted in a compilation of “doc” cards that documented a large percentage of his artworks that continues to be updated and catalogued to date. After his death in 1994, records were consolidated from the artist’s studios around the world (Francis had studios in Paris, New York, Santa Monica, Palo Alto, Tokyo, etc.), as well as other resources to document his oeuvre. We began to focus our efforts in consideration of creating a catalogue of the canvas and panel paintings, and some works have more data than others due to their public exhibition history, auction records, etc. The resulting publication with UCPress was conceived as a “living catalogue raisonné,” subject to change and expansion as new information continues to come to light. We notated that we are planning to publish an addendum in the future — probably online.

CRSA: What has been the project’s most valuable research resource?

SFCR: The artist’s artworks, his personal and business archives, as well as sources listed below continue to be the primary resources for our information.

This sources include:
Polaroids taken by studio assistants of works over the years in the studio
Correspondence and personal letters
Business & sales records
Black and white negative strips of artworks, studio shots, exhibitions
Old slides, transparencies, and black and white photographs of artworks, studio shots, exhibitions, etc.
Archives and business records of the galleries, curators and museums
Conservation records
Lists and notes by the artist
Exhibition checklists, catalogues, newspaper articles, auction records, other documentation
Interviews, development of an oral history archive, as well as correspondence with individuals who worked with him (especially studio assistants) and knew him, such as: friends, family, colleagues, collectors of his work, exhibitors of his work, dealers, galleries, curators, etc.
Identification cards assigned to a large percentage of the artworks since the early 1970s

In addition we gathered information housed at the Getty Research Institute (including the Sam Francis Papers in the special collections), Los Angeles County Museum of Art library, the Morgan Library, UCLA library, Archives of American Art, among many other sources.

CRSA: Is research ongoing?  Will other areas of Sam Francis’ practice eventually be published as a CR?

SFCR:  Since 1995 we have been archiving unique works on paper as well as monotypes and prints. Research continues as we plan to begin publishing an online document for the “works on paper.” As the Sam Francis Foundation does not authenticate or render opinions on artworks the information we provide is for educational purposes. We anticipate launching “works on paper” by June 2015 — starting with Francis’s earliest period beginning in 1945. We plan to continue publishing different periods of his career, including updated data about prints (lithographs, etchings, screen prints) as well as ceramics and sculpture.

CRSA: How does the project intend to address updates to information in this CR?

SFCR:  As mentioned, we aim to provide online updates to the UCPress catalogue and are compiling results of our ongoing research and inputting this into one of the best systems designed for catalogue raisonné research –the wonderful panOpticon database!  This software platform makes research so thorough and provides many links and ways to check data. panOpticon has designed this produce to allow for a seamless transfer of data to the web.

The following video offers a remarkable preview of the Sam Francis Catalogue Raisonné.  For additional information, visit the Sam Francis Foundation at


The CRSA aims to connect our membership with colleagues in related fields, and we were thrilled to have had many opportunities to do so this past year. This past summer,  the Brooklyn Museum hosted an excellent conversation between CRSA members and the New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC), whose mission is “to facilitate collaboration that results in enhanced resources to research communities.”  This collaborative initiative links the Frick Art Reference Library and the libraries of the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.
The changing landscape of research generally and catalogues raisonné specifically has been on the minds of scholars in recent years as evidenced by the many symposia and panels dedicated to online publishing.  NYARC not only plays a vital role in making art research accessible for scholars including those engaged in catalogues raisonnés, but is also on the forefront of new developments in library sciences.  Speakers Lily Pregill, Dr. Stephen Bury, Sumitra Duncan, and Kim Loconto provided insightful discussion of the wide range of NYARC’s projects which include shared collections catalogues, research servicesa new initiative exploring the archiving of digital art-related content, and the development of the next generation of museum librarians. Program chair Deirdre Lawrence and her staff at the Brooklyn Museum were fine hosts and created a convivial environment for conversation during the post-program reception.
We hope this is the first of many dialogues between our organizations.

myMETRO Researchers-in-Residence paper “Preparing the Catalogue Raisonné: A Guideline for Publishing Online”

The Metropolitan New York Library Council has newly published a resourceful paper on the topic of catalogue raisonné preparation:  Preparing the Catalogue Raisonne: A Guideline for Publishing Online available on METRO’s website.

The paper, by Caroline Gabrielli, Senior Project Associate for the Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings of Jasper Johns, is part of the myMETRO Researchers-in-Residence program. According to METRO:

This paper presents findings from interviews conducted with catalogue raisonné projects in various stages of development, along with the work Gabrielli and her colleagues are doing at the Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings of Jasper Johns. The guidelines summarize the common mission and challenges in preparing the catalogue raisonné, as well as the considerations for, and benefits of, publishing online.

Learn more at