Catalogue Raisonné, Critical Catalogue

What is a catalogue raisonné; what is a critical catalogue? Both are books that assemble, compile and classify the complete works of a painter or a sculptor. A process of inventory and documentation, a catalogue retraces the path followed by an artist's work, providing both an overview and a detailed description of it. Each individual painting or sculpture is described, analyzed and placed in the context of the artist's creative process. Each of the works is reproduced and accompanied by detailed notes: technical information, bibliographical and historical data along with commentary and sometimes with related iconographic documents. The establishment of a catalogue is a painstaking process, involving sifting through the data and cross-checking it, undertaking additional research in the field, verifying facts and seeking additional information often leading to sources apparently having little to do with art history (such as the records of the National Weather Service, Hospitals, or the Port Administration) so as to enhance both the scope and the quality of the research.

After this process of compilation and comparison come the decisions on how the work is to be organized, by chronology or by theme (or both), depending on whether or not the artist dated his work, and also bearing in mind the major subjects that inspired him.
Early publications of this type were called catalogues raisonnés: intended to be educational, they consisted of two distinct parts, a biography and the catalogue itself. Their modern counterpart is the critical catalogue, where the author or authors adopt a more personal, reflective approach, while still giving the same importance to rigor and method.

Establishing the catalogue of the complete work of an artist may require numerous years of research: 35 for that of Fragonard, 40 for Monet, 60 for Vuillard. Twenty or so of these reference works are in preparation at present at the Wildenstein Institute, which assumes responsibility on both scholarly and financial levels. Research does not stop after publication; new sources of information are assembled as they are discovered, with an eye to revised, corrected and expanded re-editions.

Printed in runs of 2,000, the catalogues published by the Wildenstein Institute—in partnership with the Bibliothèque des Arts, Taschen, and Skira—cover a wide panorama of art through the ages, ranging from medieval illumination to contemporary painters, by way of French sculpture.

During the process of elaboration of a critical catalogue, consultative committees play an essential role in deciding whether or not a work should be included. Our committees are formed of art historians, and/or the descendents or legal beneficiaries of the painter concerned, and of the author(s) of the catalogue. They meet periodically to discuss the works that have been submitted for examination. After examination, and based on the opinion of the members of the committee, a recommendation is made in the form of the intention to include or not to include the work under study; a third possibility also exists, that of continuing the examination of the work. Under no circumstance is a recommendation to be considered as a certificate of authenticity or appraisal, and no justification will be provided for said recommendation.

To be considered for examination by a committee, a written request must be submitted. This request will be used by SARL Wildenstein Institute Publications to set up a file for the work in question and establish the way in which the procedure will be invoiced.
The works remain the responsibility of their owners during the periods of transport and of consignment; they must be presented directly to the committee's meeting place or delivered by an authorized shipping agent within the deadlines stipulated. Under no circumstances will a work sent by post be accepted.
Whatever the committee's recommendation, the work will be returned upon presentation of the consignment receipt.
We guarantee the confidentiality of all of our procedures.