A Work In Progress
Welcome to the James Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné, a research endeavor sponsored by the James Fitzgerald Legacy, a division of the Monhegan Museum. Since its inception in 2003, a major mission of the Legacy has been to pursue a scholarly approach to research about his oeuvre, building upon the work of the heirs to his estate, Anne M. & Edgar F. Hubert. This inaugural version of the online Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné is a first step in a long-range process that will, as research is completed and resources are available, culminate in a comprehensive record of Fitzgerald’s works. Our hope is that this Catalogue will serve as an impetus towards greater appreciation of Fitzgerald’s artistic legacy and for his place in mid-twentieth century American Art.
Upon the death of Anne Hubert in 2004 at age 95, the Fitzgerald Estate was turned over to the Monhegan Museum. Along with a large body of work in all mediums (as well as the artist’s home and studio on Monhegan) were the Hubert’s catalogued records laboriously compiled in the two years following the artist’s sudden death in April 1971. Their system, housed in a series of fifteen photo albums, consisted in 3 x 5 in. photographs paired with similarly sized index cards containing basic information (title, date if known, medium, dimensions, and some provenance and exhibition history). These albums documented the work – watercolors, oil paintings, Chinese ink monochromes, drawings and sketches – that was found in Fitzgerald’s studio on Monhegan Island in the spring of 1971. All told, almost 1400 works were itemized and numbered.
One of the first challenges faced by the Legacy was to convert this pre-computer age, handwritten catalogue record into a searchable digital format. The Huberts’ records focused on work in the Estate and did not, by and large, reflect work that had been sold by the artist during his lifetime. In late 2007, we initiated a digital database using FileMaker Pro, the same computer program used by the Monhegan Museum for its collection. Ellie Vuilleumier, who at the time was the Registrar for the Portland Museum of Art, volunteered to serve as our Legacy registrar and began the task of digitizing the data from the Huberts’ records and photo albums. Unfortunately, Ellie died in early 2010 before much of the work could be completed. Over the ensuing years, we have continued to add works from many sources: museums, private collections, and galleries; and to correct, update, and refine information in records already in the database—information such as provenance history of work that has been sold or otherwise changed hands. Currently the database includes information regarding approximately 2300 of his works. We continue to seek to identify and verify previously unknown work that was sold during the artist’s lifetime (see Contact Us).
We have chosen to introduce the James Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné by showcasing the wonderful body of work held in public collections. This first phase focuses on the 198 works that are held in twenty-eight public collections from Maine to Alaska. We are extremely grateful for the cooperation and assistance given to us by museum curators and registrars from around the country who have been cheerful despite our persistence in seeking information and images of the work from their collections.
Phase two, which we hope to launch in early 2015, will highlight the work from our own Fitzgerald Legacy Collection. High resolution digital photography of all the nearly 600 works remaining in the artist’s estate was completed in 2014. Approximately half of the Legacy Collection is comprised of finished works and half drawings (some finished and some preparatory) and sketches. We look forward to bringing our Fitzgerald Legacy Collection before the public, allowing us to make it available to a much wider audience.
In phase three we will begin to present work from private collections. Ownership of these works will be kept anonymous and listed simply as “Private Collection” in the Catalogue Raisonné—unless an owner explicitly desires to be listed as owner. We will be in touch with all owners for whom we have active contact information with details about maintaining privacy of ownership. While we have received almost 200 high resolution images from private collectors, the success of this phase will be altogether dependent upon the continued assistance of private individuals who enjoy living with his work. We continue to encourage collectors to contact us so that we can discuss what is required in imaging the work.
Phase four will be the first public presentation of the twenty-nine sketchbooks housed at the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art, in Washington, DC—along with other research documents about Fitzgerald’s life and work donated by Anne Hubert in 1992. These sketchbooks contain over 600 preliminary sketches and drawings from the last twenty-five years of the artist’s life. In addition, we will present the eight sketch books in the Fitzgerald Legacy Collection. These sketchbooks provide a documentation and insight into the artist’s creative process.
It is particularly special for the members of the Legacy to mark the tenth anniversary of Anne Hubert’s passing with the inauguration of the James Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné. We thank the Friends of the James Fitzgerald Legacy for their support over these years, and hope that as this Catalogue Raisonné progresses, it will lead an ever larger audience to enjoy and experience the rich artistic heritage he left.
Robert L. Stahl
Director, James Fitzgerald Legacy
Monhegan, October 2014