How a Catalogue Raisonné is Typically Organized

A fundamental decision concerns what part of an artist’s oeuvre a catalogue raisonné (“CR”) will cover; Medium or support usually determine this choice. When a CR records all of an artist’s works – which is the most desirable goal rather than a partial catalogue – they are often divided into separate volumes along such lines.

The most frequent organizing principle is by dating, i.e. chronologically. This approach makes exemplary sense because it allows works to be easily located by the years in which they were made and also displays the whole trajectory of the oeuvre.

However, in some cases determining the precise chronological sequence can be difficult: certain CRs depart from (or elaborate) this model.

More broadly, the overall structure of a CR tends to have sub-sections such as a bibliography; an exhibition history (solo and group); listing of works in public collections; references to useful archives (when they exist); a chronology of the artist’s life; an author’s remarks stating the research methodology and discussing the sources used; catalogue conventions; symbols and abbreviations used in the entries; concordances (when, for instance, estate numbers or similar listings have already been made); indices (of course); and, more perilous, “problems for further study”, i.e., pieces that may not be authentic.

The finest CRs include an authoritative text or texts examining the art in question, expounding new research and/or unifying as much previous scholarship as possible. In doing so, these essays also explain the issues and methods that the authors/editors have encountered and used.

Last, CRs are normally large publications, whether in book format or digital, holding a huge amount of factual information. Consequently, even the most painstaking CR must have a clear, intelligent design that presents the data (visual and textual) in a way that the reader will find both helpful and accessible.

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