You can search the Catalogue in a number of different ways: by title or the catalogue raisonné (CR #) number; by collection – museums or other public institutions, and the Fitzgerald Legacy. Under museum collections there is a drop-down menu that allows you to search the collection of a particular institution.
You can also filter your search by two other broad categories, Subject and Location. Location indicates a place where Fitzgerald lived and/or worked for a given period of time, such as California or Nova Scotia. The most detailed search options are under the category of Subject. Subjects have been chosen because they correspond to certain recurring themes that Fitzgerald painted, and is divided into common Themes, such as Ranches and Farms, or Forests and Trees, etc.
Thus, using the pre-defined keyword subjects or locations and selecting terms from the drop-down menus at the left will likely be the most efficient and common way of filtering your search. You can also refine your search by using both a subject and a location filter so that, for example, you can select subject matter Seascapes and subject location California to generate more specific results. For more information on subjects, media, titles, and dating used in the catalogue, see below.
Please Note: Search results are presented as thumbnail images in a gallery view. For uniformity of presentation, the thumbnails are not displayed proportionately (e.g., an 8 x 10 inch drawing will have the same size as an oil painting that is 30 x 40 inches). By clicking on an image the user will see an enlarged proportional representation of the work, along with additional information about it.
In the gallery view, each work is shown with a thumbnail image, alongside which the following information is listed: title, date, medium, dimensions, and owner. Clicking on the text will generate a full page entry. Please click on the image to generate an enlarged image.
Each full page entry includes an image of the work, title, CR number, a physical description (i.e., medium and measurements), signature information, credit line, and provenance. Information about publication and exhibition records, curatorial comments, historical notes, and related works will be added at a future date or as information becomes available.
Catalogue Raisonné Number
Each work by Fitzgerald has been assigned a unique catalogue raisonné (CR) number. The CR number is a random number and does not represent a place in a chronological sequence within the artist’s oeuvre. It furthermore has no correlation with the Hubert number that Anne & Edgar Hubert assigned to works they inherited in the artist’s estate.
Categories and Theme
Category refers to the type of work, such as oil painting, watercolor, monochrome, drawing, or sketch. Watercolors comprise the bulk of Fitzgerald’s oeuvre, but his work as a draughtsman is equally extensive with hundreds of drawings and sketches on favorite themes: gulls in flight, surf, nudes, and specific sites on Monhegan such as Black Head. Themes are classifications relating to genre, such as landscape, surf, horses, or fishermen. See above for search options related to categories and themes.
Fitzgerald titled some of his work, especially when it was exhibited in galleries. Titles he gave are indicated in italics (e.g., Mermaid Roses). The majority of work, however, remained untitled. As they sorted and catalogued Fitzgerald’s work after his death, Anne and Edgar Hubert assigned titles. These, and work titled by others (owners, galleries, museums) are given in plain text. Alternate titles will be added in the future and as additional information becomes available. Some works, including most of the sketches and drawings are not titled and are listed as “Untitled sketch” with the subject in [brackets] (e.g., Untitled sketch [Katahdin]).
Fitzgerald dated much of his work during art school in the early 1920’s, up to and including the body of work created on the Elizabeth Howard voyage in 1923. After that time he only rarely dated his work. In addition, he worked on favorite themes (e.g., horses plowing or surf and rocks) at many different points in his career and with very similar compositional formats. Thus the task of dating of his work requires scholars and those familiar with individual works as well as with his entire oeuvre to make informed assumptions about dating based on such means as comparisons to other works of a distinctive type or series (e.g., WPA murals) or from a specific location of a known body of works (e.g., Ireland or Nova Scotia). Works dated by Fitzgerald are indicated as such under the signature and inscriptions information. Works of a known date—that is, based on clear evidence, have a simple year. In most cases a “circa” date or date range is used (e.g., ca. 1927 or ca. 1941-43). In cases where there is little or no guiding information, a work is indicated as “Undated.”
Signature and inscriptions
Fitzgerald signed less than one fifth of his works. During his art school days, he frequently used “J. Edward Fitzgerald”, whereas later the artist signed his work “James Fitzgerald”. Verification of signature information is available for works that were part of the artist’s estate by examination of the estate photographs obtained by the Huberts in the early 1970’s. For unsigned works, the Legacy will be glad to provide a Letter of Authenticity when clear provenance information can be verified (see Online Registration Form).
Materials and Tools
Fitzgerald was a highly skilled craftsman and consistent throughout his career in using only the best quality materials. Despite never having much money, he would pay for the best paints, inks, brushes, paper or canvas and make them last a long time through judicious, careful use, proper cleaning, and maintenance. For instance, he had an ingenious way of latching his watercolor brushes onto bamboo slats to keep them from rolling and bending or damaging the hairs. An inventory of the materials and tools from the Fitzgerald studio on Monhegan has been completed and will be added to the website at a later date.
Works on paper: Mediums
Fitzgerald’s most prevalent medium was watercolor, but he also worked in a wide variety of other mediums or combinations of mediums on paper, including Chinese inks, pen and ink, graphite, charcoal, and gouache. Fitzgerald was also a master gilder, and frequently incorporated gold, silver, and even copper leaf in his work. In the early 1930s, while living in California, Fitzgerald researched sources of old imperial Chinese watercolors and inks and requested a friend who was to travel to China to have sent to him a supply of watercolors, inks, brushes, and mulberry rice paper (some more than a hundred years old). Cakes of ink dating to the 18th century were encased in a beautiful lacquered box with inscription on outside: “Manufactured for Imperial Use, with Decorations of the Cotton Industry.” From that point on, he mixed his own watercolors from the cake form sparingly as needed, using the supply for many years. If he ran out of a particular color, he chose to eliminate it from his palette rather than buying a newer commercially available product.
Drawing and sketching mediums include pen and ink, charcoal, pencil (graphite usually), and crayon—and often a combination of these.
Works on Paper: Supports
Fitzgerald was equally particular about the papers he used. He favored medium or heavy Whatman paper or rice paper of the type originally delivered to him from China in 1934. On trips to Europe, he would invariably make a stop in London to search out and purchase big batches of older Whatman paper to bring back home—always concerned to acquire more before supplies of his favorite types of paper would run out.
Fitzgerald left behind in his studio (and thus in his Estate) hundreds of individual, loose drawings. Some are either finished or unfinished preparatory drawings for an oil or watercolor; others are simply casual or careful renderings of a subject. The same is true for sketches, which are sometimes a first-stage capturing of an idea or a series of experimental versions of a subject, often done in situ.
The Legacy’s database contains, in addition to loose drawings and sketches, twenty-nine sketchbooks that have been catalogued individually but grouped together within a given sketchbook. Fitzgerald was more practical than methodical in his use of sketchbooks, only occasionally dedicating a given sketchbook to a unique location or subject. He sometimes labelled or titled a sketchbook, such as Sketchbook #2, on which he wrote on the cover “Dories, Monhegan” and “Dories – Gulls — Nudes” but which also contains sketches of Mt. Katahdin.
Brushes and Tools
Likewise, Fitzgerald used the finest brushes for watercolor, ink, or oil, favoring a red sable type in a variety of sizes. He often scored lines and other markings into the surface of the wet paint using the tip of his brush or a sharp too. Left in his studio at his death are several palettes, supplies of inks, pens, charcoal, palette knives of various sizes, and a typical assortment of other artists’ tools.
Oil painting medium and support
In the last two decades of his life, Fitzgerald manufactured his own oil paints according to the several hundred year old formula of Maroger (see the exhibition catalogue, James Fitzgerald: The Oil Paintings). The components of beeswax, litharge, and linseed oil were combined in exact proportions and boiled to a specified temperature over an open fire, resulting in a buttery, amber colored material to which he would add oil pigments. This ‘black oil’ resulted in a rich, luscious medium. Because of its thick consistency, it facilitated an impasto technique that was also somewhat sculptural.
The Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné will eventually contain such detailed information as exhibition history and publications for each work.