Monday, 12 November 2018

Quantity...and the catalogue

The fact that Dave Pearson worked tirelessly throughout his life and left an exceptionally large number of artworks has often been commented on. It's clearly a notable and impressive achievement, but it has led to a number of problems. Ella Cole has been working for the Trust (now the Studio) since 2013 cataloguing the work, although this process has now just about reached its end.

Each piece of work has had to be given a title, photographed and measured, and a decision made on what type of art work it is - painting, drawing, print, gouache etc etc. This information is then fed into the database, which gives the piece a 'catalogue number'. 

We have used Artlook Software to help us with this process from the beginning, and have been very impressed with it. Especially since it recently upgraded to a fully digital cloud-based application. Now, when we look at our catalogue on a screen, we see something like this:

It's easy to scroll through and call up and look more closely at individual items. It tells us whether a work has been sold or not, its price and year of origin. It's also simple to search for work under a wide range of category headings. So, for example, we can just just select 'etchings' and the screen will show only the etchings within the catalogue.

We're often asked about the quantity of work created by Dave. Ella completed her cataloguing at roughly item number 13,500.  But the catalogue started at number 110 rather than 0, and although the occasional mistake can be easily altered or modified, each change will move the numbering forward by one. So it might be more realistic to say that there are about 13,000 items in the catalogue. 

However Dave's many sketch books, many of which contain between 50 and 100 drawings, have simply been catalogued each as a single item. Similarly some folders of work (mainly sketches or monoprints) have been catalogued in the same way. In addition to this, we have never catalogued most of the the very early work, which is stored under not very good conditions in the cellar. It's mostly in poor condition but must amount in total to several hundred pieces. Finally, I estimate that there are perhaps 2,000 pieces of work at Dave's old house, now with his son Chris. So, taking these things into account there are probably about 15,500 pieces of work, in total, by Dave Pearson.

But - and its a big but, Dave never threw anything away. This has been very helpful in tracking his work through from its inception in sketch form through to the completed pieces. But it also means that there's a considerable amount of work which are best considered as sketches, sometimes scribbles, or as trial pieces, and as test pieces. I think, had Dave lived, he would certainly have rejected some of these and have archived them, and removed them from the catalogue of his work. 

Looking at this issue - and dealing with it - will be one of our major challenges in the forthcoming year or so. It might well mean that the estimated 15.500 pieces of Dave Pearsons catalogued work will finally be reduced to a catalogue raisonne of half that number, or even fewer.

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