Posted October 11, 2000.
Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary compiled and edited by Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, and Brian L. Meggitt is certainly one of the more curious regional artist dictionaries ever published. Not only does it contain artist biographies but the more than 10,000 entries also include cemetery headstone carvers, chair painters, house painters, penmanship teachers, carriage painters, architects, draftsmen, mechanical engineers, art patrons, art collectors, paperhangers, sign painters, pen artists, writing teachers, china decorators, photographers, and more. Maybe the book is attempting to redefine or broaden traditional definitions of art; maybe the compilers got a really big research grant or maybe they thought that Ohio didn't have enough artists and that it needed more. Whatever the case, rest assured that we won't be seeing a revised, enlarged edition of this over-the-top tome for many, many decades to come.
One of the benefits of including anyone who could even be remotely categorized as an artist is that, like the proverbial broken clock that's correct twice a day, Artists in Ohio provides much needed coverage of several disciplines not ordinarily included in regional artist dictionaries. For example, interest in collecting vintage photographs has grown so rapidly in recent years that a tremendous need has been created for scholarly documentation of early photographers and photographic history. A big plus point of Artists in Ohio is that it lists numerous photographers and thoroughly covers early photography-related activities in the state. The dictionary also excels in its coverage of architects and ceramic decorators. Architectural historians can use the book to learn about the people who designed and built local buildings; pottery and ceramics collectors can use it to help identify artists who created previously unidentifiable pieces in their collections. Lastly, dealers and collectors who like to track down lost works of art can use the dictionary to research early patrons and collectors in hopes of locating descendants who may still own art and be willing to part with it.
A most impressive aspect of the dictionary is the sheer amount of time and effort that the researches invested to locate and compile data. Biographical information was culled from hundreds of sources such as city directories, census forms, necrology files, genealogical records, Ohio directories, newspaper and magazine articles, and more. Far more work went into the writing of this book than went into the writing of similar regional artist dictionaries and it shows. An appendix listing Ohio art schools, organizations, expositions and collaborative works, and two extensive bibliographies round out this very worthwhile reference.
Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary compiled and edited by Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, and Brian L. Meggitt. Kent State University Press, Kent, OH, 2000, hardbound, 1066 pages, 6 1/4 by 9 1/2 inches, $150. Available from The Kent State University Press, P. O. Box 5190, Kent, OH 44242-0001 or call 1.800.247.6553.
Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists, A Biographical Dictionary of Artists in Texas Before 1942 by John and Deborah Powers lists 3,800 artists who were active in Texas before World War II. It's the most comprehensive work ever published on Texas art and artists and provides valuable information for dealers, collectors, and scholars who are interested in this very active area of regional American art collecting. I can personally attest to the usefulness of this book because I found more than three paragraphs of detailed biographical data on a Texas artist that I'd been trying to research for years, but with little luck.
Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists has several superior features worth noting. First, all entries are written and organized in the same format which makes locating specific data about any artist a quick and easy process. Second, many entries list exhibitions where the artists showed their art which is a great tool for dealers and collectors who are trying to document the histories of specific art pieces (works of art exhibited at significant shows are almost always worth more than comparable works with no such exhibition histories). Third, appendixes of art educational institutions, museums, art associations, and exhibitions contribute to the overall understanding of Texas art history.
Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists is a superbly researched and written regional American artist dictionary-- one of the best I've ever reviewed. I highly recommend it.
Texas Painters, Sculptors & Graphic Artists, A Biographical Dictionary of Artists in Texas Before 1942 by John and Deborah Powers. Woodmont Books, Austin, TX, 2000, hardbound, 606 pages, 7 1/4 by 10 1/4 inches, $125. Available from Woodmont Books, P.O. Box 50103, Austin, TX 78763-0103 or call 1.512.478.3314. You can also order directly from the Woodmont Books website.
Oregon Painters, The First Hundred Years (1859-1959) by Ginny Allen and Jody Klevit is something like an almanac of early Oregon art. It contains a synopsis of Oregon art history, a timeline of Oregon art, names of significant outside artists who visited Oregon, information about Federal Arts Projects in Oregon, a section of photographs of artists, color illustrations of representative works of art, a biographical artist dictionary indexing about 500 names, and more. Artists listings are comprehensive and well organized and, as with the Texas dictionary mentioned above, I located basic information on an Oregon artist that I had previously come up pretty much empty-handed on in my researches. Oregon Painters is a quirky mish-mash of a book, but it's a good quirky mish-mash and an absolute necessity for anyone interested in learning about Oregon art history or collecting Oregon art and artists.
Oregon Painters, The First Hundred Years (1859-1959), Index and Biographical Dictionary by Ginny Allen and Jody Klevit. Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland, OR, 2000, hardbound, dust jacket, 341 pages, 6 3/8 by 8 3/8 inches, $40. Available from Oregon Historical Society Press, 1200 Southwest Park Ave., Portland, OR 97205-2483 or call 1.503.222.1741. You can also order directly from the Oregon Historical Society Press website.