“Catalogues Raisonnés Go Digital” — the New York Times, August 14, 2015
“New technology and fresh perspectives are jumpstarting efforts to assemble exhaustive lists of works by 19th-century American painters, sometimes in progress for decades. Next month a consortium of museums interested in the Massachusetts maritime painter Fitz Henry Lane (1804–65) will introduce a website, fitzhenrylaneonline.org, documenting about 320 paintings, drawings and prints at various institutions. Much of the material is being drawn from the Cape Ann Museum, in Mr. Lane’s hometown, Gloucester, Mass., and images on the website will be linked to infrared paint analyses, biographies of Mr. Lane’s clients, newspaper ads for his suppliers, maps of harbors where he sketched and portraits of owners of the ships moored there.
“Mr. Lane’s recently rediscovered tableau of an 1840s sailing ship, scheduled to be added to the site, will be offered for auction (with an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000) on Aug. 26 at James D. Julia in Fairfield, Me.
“The Lane consortium is working with panOpticon, a Manhattan supplier of technology for comprehensive artist databases, known in the trade as catalogues raisonnés. Roger Shepherd, the company’s founder, said that the sites can link artworks to diary entries, restorers’ reports, photos of gallery installations and collectors’ homes, descriptions of related works that have been destroyed and more.
“Crowdsourcing would bring in more data, and persistent errors could be corrected. (Mr. Lane, for instance, is often erroneously called Fitz Hugh Lane.) Past owners could be identified as they emerge, which is increasingly crucial in an art market riddled with forgeries.
“’You don’t want holes in your provenance,’ Mr. Shepherd said.”