The James Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné – 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 of Art & History. Since its inception in 2003, a major objective 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. The inaugural version of the online Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné published in 2014 was a first step in a long-range process whose goal, as research is completed, will 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 American Art of the mid-twentieth century.
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 inch 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 after the artist’s death. 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 still in the Estate at the time of the artist’s death and did not, by and large, reflect work that had been sold by Fitzgerald 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 to the database 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 almost 2400 of his works. We continue to seek to identify and verify previously unknown work that was sold during the artist’s lifetime, and seek the input of collectors whose works have not yet been digitally captured in high resolution images.
In 2014 we chose to introduce the online James Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné by showcasing the wonderful body of work held in public collections. This first phase focused on the 198 works that are held in twenty-eight public collections from Maine to Alaska. We have been 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 was launched in early 2015, highlighting 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. Bringing forward our Fitzgerald Legacy Collection before the public, allowing us to make it available to a much wider audience, has been an invaluable experience.
Phase three, which began in 2016, presented work from private collections. Ownership of these works is kept anonymous and listed simply as “Private Collection” in the Catalogue Raisonné. The success of this phase has been altogether dependent upon the continued assistance of private individuals who enjoy living with his work, and has allowed us to add over 500 works held in private hands to the website. We continue to encourage collectors to contact us so that we can discuss what is required to add the work to the catalogue raisonné, including the imaging of the work.
Phase four will be presented in 2020, and will consist of the twenty-one sketchbooks housed at the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art, in Washington, DC that were donated by Anne Hubert in 1992—along with other research documents about Fitzgerald’s life and work. 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.
I wrote in 2014 that it was particularly special for the members of the Legacy to mark the tenth anniversary of Anne Hubert’s passing with the inauguration of the online James Fitzgerald Catalogue Raisonné. It is difficult to imagine that it is now almost 16 years since Anne’s passing. As the Fitzgerald Legacy and the Monhegan Museum of Art & History continue our mission to preserve, protect, and promote his work, we thank the Friends of the James Fitzgerald Legacy for their support over these years, and hope that as his Catalogue Raisonné progresses, it will lead an ever larger audience to enjoy and experience the rich artistic heritage he left behind.
Robert L. Stahl
Director, James Fitzgerald Legacy 2004-2021
Monhegan, October 2014
updated June 2020