Agents for the Frick Art Reference Library
Clotilde Brière-Mismé, a librarian at the Bibliothèque d'art et d'archéologie de l'Université de Paris, was one of the first people Miss Frick hired in 1921 to help build the Library collections. Originally engaged to obtain monographs, exhibition catalogues, and auction sales catalogues, she began to procure photographs for the Library in 1925. Over the next twenty-three years, she acquired more than 55,000 photographs of works in France and the Netherlands, many taken by the photographer Jacques Bulloz. In particular, she was instrumental in purchasing, through the art historian Henri Focillon, a large number of photographs of frescoes in French churches. Her tireless efforts on behalf of the Library are commemorated on a plaque in the Library's Reading Room. Mme Brière's work was continued from 1957 to 1960 by Mlle Dons, who acquired an additional 2,104 photographs for the Library.
Through Dr. W. W. S. Cook, a professor of Spanish art at New York University and the founding director of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, the Library collected more than 10,000 photographs of Spanish painting and sculpture from the Arxiu d'Arqueologia Catalana in Vich, Spain between 1932 and 1941 and 28,000 photographs from Archivo MAS and Foto Gudiol. Dr. Cook also was responsible for the acquisition of more than 3,000 photographs from the Photo Club, Burgos, and 150 prints of rare works photographed by J. J. Tous, Palma de Mallorca. In 1945, through H. E. Wethey of the American Embassy, Lima, Dr. Cook acquired approximately 400 photographs of paintings from Cuzco and Lima.
Umberto Gnoli, a scholar of Umbrian painting, worked as an agent for the Library from 1927 to 1930 and acquired over 9,000 photographs of Umbrian paintings and works of art in Rome, Naples, and the Marches. Through Count Gnoli, the Library was able to obtain photographs of paintings and sculpture in the interiors of Italian churches, many of which were reproduced for the first time, as well as almost 500 photographs of mosaics. His annotations on the photographs have been important to scholars for identifying attributions.
José Gudiol, a scholar in the field of Spanish art, the former director of the Arxiu d'Arqueologia Catalana, and the founder of the Instituto Amattler de Arte Hispánica, contributed greatly to the Library's collection of photographs of Spanish paintings, sculpture, and architecture. From 1939 to 1948, he obtained over 4,000 photographs for the Library, including 764 Archivo MAS photographs. Many of the photographs he provided filled gaps in the Library's collection either in less-visited regions of Spain or by replacing poor or damaged photographs. Many of the photographs obtained through W. W. S. Cook originated from Gudiol.
Millard Meiss of Columbia University was a key advisor to the Library in building the collection of medieval manuscript photographs. Between 1932 and 1938, he acquired more than 100 photographs for the Library and, in 1976, his widow, Margaret Louchheim Meiss, donated his collection of 5,700 photographs of manuscripts to the Library.
Dr. Richard Offner of New York University was one of the foremost scholars of Florentine painting and the author of the monumental work, A Critical and Historic Corpus of Florentine Painting. Working as an agent for the Library from 1925 to 1929, Dr. Offner acquired almost 3,000 photographs of Florentine works of art. He worked with several photographers, including D. Anderson, Nicolò Cipriani, and Giacomo Brogi, who was the first to photograph successfully the interior of dim churches. Brogi's innovative photographs provided the Library with the first images of previously unpublished works. Dr. Offner also worked with contacts in Germany to provide photographs of Italian paintings in German public and private collections.
Through F. Mason Perkins, a collector and scholar of early Italian Renaissance art, the Library acquired more than 6,000 photographs of paintings, mainly from Siena and surrounding regions but also from other regions of Italy and Spain. In 1924 he recommended the purchase of the Burton Archive, 679 original negatives taken by Harry Burton of rare works of Italian art. Mr. Perkins, as well as Dr. Offner, often would use Library photographs in their books as the first published illustrations of works of art.
Mario Sansoni originally worked as a member of the Florentine photographic firm of Sansoni and Nesti under the direction of Library agents Perkins and Offner. Upon leaving the firm, Sansoni went to work as an agent for the Library and was essential in making contacts with local photographers. Between 1930 and 1969, he helped the Library acquire more than 26,000 photographs, including prints for entire exhibitions, many of which did not have illustrated catalogues. Between 1921 and 1952, Sansoni also made 8,800 original negatives and photographs for the Library of works of art in situ in remote towns throughout Italy. In some cases, these negatives are the only record of works of art that have since become unavailable to the public. The images from these negatives are available on ARTstor. Always seeking to expand the Library's collection, Sansoni was planning a photographic trip to Hungary when it was unfortunately cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.
L.D. (Lea Danesi) Tolnay worked as an agent for the Library on her travels through England, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria between 1929 and 1956. She acquired nearly 8,000 photographs of works of art in private collections, dealer collections, and auction sales, as well as paintings and sculpture in public buildings that illustrate the restoration or rediscovery of previously undocumented works.
Sir Robert Witt, the primary inspiration for the Frick Library, also acted on behalf of the Library as an agent from 1929 to 1933. Through his efforts, the Library acquired more than 5,400 photographs from public and private collections in England and museums throughout Europe. He also obtained more than 1,500 photographs from auction sales in London, which in many cases are the only documentation of the works of art as they moved from one private collection to another.