Smithsonian American Art Museum: Research and Scholars Center

Helene Sardeau (Mrs. George Biddle) at work in her studio photograph

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s specialized art research databases—the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture and the Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index—describe more than a half million art works in public and private collections worldwide. SAAM’s Photograph Study Collection contains more than a quarter million negatives and study prints documenting American art by leading fine arts photography firms.

Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture

The Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture were created by the Smithsonian American Art Museum to assist researchers in locating American paintings and sculptures for comparative study. Together, the Inventories reference over 400,000 art works in public and private collections worldwide and are complemented by a photographic study file of over 80,000 photographs, which are available for study in the museum’s Washington, DC office. Over 21,000 painters and nearly 15,000 sculptors are represented in the database.

The Inventory of American Paintings began in the early 1970s, and has collected data on over 350,000 paintings created by American artists active by 1914. The Inventory of American Sculpture began collecting data in 1985, and includes information on over 90,000 works created by artists born or active in the United States from colonial to contemporary times. Search the Art Inventories.

Photograph Study Collection

The Photograph Study Collection contains nearly a quarter million negatives, photographs, and slides documenting American art works from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century. As a research and study collection, the images constitute a unique visual record of American art, sometimes providing the only visual documentation of a changed, damaged or lost original. Search the Photograph Study Collection.  Highlights of the collection include:

Peter A. Juley & Son Collection

The Peter A. Juley & Son Collection contain nearly 127,000 negatives documenting art works by 11,000 American artists. Peter A. Juley (1862-1937) and his son Paul P. Juley (1890-1975) headed the largest and most respected fine arts photography firms in New York from 1896 to 1975. Their clients included artists, galleries, museums, schools, and private collectors.  The Juley Collection also contains 3,500 portraits of artists, including formal poses as well as candid shots that depict artists working in their studios, teaching classes, and serving as jurors for exhibitions.

American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection

The American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection contains 2,790 photographs of American sculpture, dating from the late 1890s to 1940. The collection was assembled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for study purposes and includes photos from staff photographers, commercial photographers, publishers, and photographs "desirable in the study of art" assembled by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and presented to the Museum in 1930.

Walter Rosenblum Collection

The Walter Roseblum Collection contains 7,398 negatives covering American and European art. An accomplished photographer and teacher, Walter Rosenblum (1919-2006) supplemented his income by doing freelance work for major New York galleries, artists and collectors from 1945 to 1970. Among Rosenblum's clients were ACA Galleries, Graham Gallery, Matisse, New Gallery and The Contemporaries. The Rosenblum Collection reflects the art of his time and is particularly strong in American and European avant-garde, surreal and abstract works.

National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship Program Collection

The National Endowment for the Arts Artists Fellowship Program documents art works by approximately 4,600 artists who received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts national Visual Artists Fellowship Program and its companion regional programs from 1967 to 1995. When the program ended, approximately 54,000 and 400 video tapes came to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Digital images for artists who have given their permission are searchable onsite in the Research and Scholars Center.

Library of Congress Copyright Deposit Collection

The Library of Congress Copyright Deposit Collection contains 2,461 photomechanical reproductions documenting art works by approximately 500 American artists from the 1890s to 1940s. The images were originally deposited with the Library of Congress as part of the copyright registration process for art works. The images, in color and black-and-white, are mounted on oversize board. The collection documents drawings, graphic prints, paintings, and other works of art by late 19th century and early 20th century American artists.

Photograph Study Collection Rights and Reproductions

Photographs from the Photograph Study Collection may not be reproduced without written permission from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is important that you contact the Research and Scholars Center for specific details regarding the collection you are interested in.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Research and Scholars Center

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