National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION

Database Overview

Data on all paintings, works of sculpture, objects of decorative art, and works on paper in the National Gallery's collection are recorded on Leonardo, the Gallery's comprehensive database, which is the primary source for the collection information published on the Web site. Leonardo is maintained and updated regularly by the Gallery's Office of the Registrar, Department of Curatorial Records, and Division of Graphic Arts. Basic information is available on every work of art in the collection: artist, title, dimensions, medium, credit line, and accession number. In addition, particular attention has been devoted to the development of scholarly records on paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, and many old master and modern drawings. The scholarly information includes extensive object provenance, exhibition history, literature, and artist biography.

Information for the database is assembled from a variety of sources. The most significant source is the research conducted for the National Gallery's systematic catalogue publications. Records of objects that have been published in the systematic catalogue have complete provenance, exhibition history, literature, artist biography, and artist bibliography available on the Web site. For new acquisitions or objects not yet published, records are augmented in conjunction with ongoing research. Another source of significant historical information about objects given to the National Gallery of Art includes original documents provided by Gallery donors and now in the curatorial files. These documents include records kept by Andrew Mellon, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, Chester Dale, and the estate of Peter A. B. Widener, among others.

Scope of Information
Scholarly information is available on the Web site as follows:

Bibliography comprises citations to scholarly literature which refer directly to the Gallery object. Bibliographies are complete for all objects in published systematic catalogues. Partial bibliographies, including references from National Gallery collection publications dating from 1941 to the present, are available for works not included in systematic catalogues. These records are regularly updated, with the goal of providing complete bibliographies for all objects.

Biographical Information includes complete biographies for all artists published in the systematic catalogues. Biographies of Gallery donors and former owners of Gallery objects have been assembled from information in the curatorial files. Biographies of American graphic artists, which do not appear in published systematic catalogues, have been excerpted from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art produced by the department of education resources.

Exhibition History lists complete exhibition histories for all objects in published systematic catalogues. Partial, although extensive, exhibition histories exist for the remainder of collection, culled from various sources including Gallery records of outgoing loans and major exhibition catalogues. For example, all National Gallery objects known to have been exhibited in the eight impressionist exhibitions in Paris between 1874 and 1886, in the Paris Salons, and those that were part of the 1913 Armory show in New York are recorded. Loans of the Chester Dale collection from 1920 to 1950 are particularly well documented, as are exhibitions of the Thomas B. Clarke collection of American portraits at the Union League Club and Century Association in New York.

Provenance information is available for all painting and sculptures in the collection and for a significant number of works on paper. This information is available as a narrative text, and can also accessed by the name of a previous owner. In addition to provenance research conducted for the systematic catalogue and other projects, in late 1997 the National Gallery of Art began extensive research into the history of ownership of paintings in its collection with particular attention o the World War II era. Results of this ongoing research are available on the World War II Provenance research page on this site.

To purchase the National Gallery's systematic catalogue publications, visit our online shop.

Further Information

The Department of Curatorial Records is available to answer questions on paintings, works of sculpture, and objects of decorative art in the Gallery's collection. Inquiries about drawings, prints, and photographs may be directed to the Division of Graphic Arts.