Smithsonian American Art Museum Research and Scholars Center

Helene Sardeau (Mrs. George Biddle) at work in her studio photograph

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s specialized art research databases—the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture and the Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index—describe more than a half million artworks in public and private collections worldwide.

SAAM’s Photograph Archives contain more than a half million negatives and photographs documenting American art by leading fine arts photography firms. The Nam June Paik Archive and Joseph Cornell Study Center offer an in-depth view of two of America’s most influential artists.

Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture

The Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture were created by the Smithsonian American Art Museum to assist researchers in locating American paintings and sculptures for comparative study. Together, the Inventories reference over 400,000 art works in public and private collections worldwide and are complemented by a photographic study file of over 80,000 photographs, which are available for study in our Washington, DC office. Over 21,000 painters and nearly 15,000 sculptors are represented in the database. Reference services are provided to the public. Search the Inventories

Highlights: The Inventory of American Paintings began in the early 1970s, and has collected data on over 300,000 paintings created by American artists active by 1914. The Inventory of American Sculpture began collecting data in 1985, and includes information on over 90,000 works created by artists born or active in the United States from colonial to contemporary times. Included in the Inventory of American Sculpture are reports of 32,000 outdoor sculptures documented through the Museum's Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS!) program.

Photograph Archives

The Photograph Archives of the Smithsonian American Art Museum contains nearly a half million photographs, negatives, and slides documenting American art. As a research and study collection, the Archives constitutes a unique visual record of American art, sometimes providing the only visual documentation of an altered, damaged or lost original. Among the special collections are the following holdings:

Peter A. Juley & Son Collection

The Peter A. Juley & Son Collection comprises 127,000 black & white photographic negatives documenting the work of more than 11,000 American artists. Peter A. Juley (1862-1937) and his son Paul P. Juley (1890-1975) headed the largest and most respected fine arts photography firm in New York from 1907 to 1975. Their clients included museums, galleries, schools, art dealers, private collectors and nearly every major artist of the period. During their seventy years in business, Peter and Paul Juley covered American art from realism to impressionism to abstraction. The Juley Collection also contains 4,700 portraits of artists, including formal poses as well as candid shots that depict artists working in their studios, teaching classes, and serving as jurors for exhibitions. You can view a selection of Juley photographs on Flickr Commons or search the archive.

Walter Rosenblum Collection

The Walter Roseblum Collection contains 7,500 black & white photographic negatives covering American and European art. An accomplished photographer and teacher, Walter Rosenblum (1919-2006) supplemented his income by doing freelance work for major New York galleries, artists and collectors from 1945 to 1970. Among Rosenblum's clients were ACA Galleries, Graham Gallery, Matisse, New Gallery and The Contemporaries. Reflective of the period, the collection is particularly strong in American and European avant-garde, surreal and abstract works.

American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection

The American Sculpture Photograph Study Collection contains 2,416 photographs and photomechanical reproductions of American sculpture, dating from the late 1890s to 1940. The collection was assembled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for study purposes and includes works from in-house staff photographers, commercial photographers, publishers, and photographs "desirable in the study of art" assembled by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and presented to the Museum in 1930. The collection was given to Smithsonian American Art Museum Photograph Archives in 2004. In addition to documenting the works of many renowned American sculptors, the collection also includes a number of rare early photographs of outdoor sculpture and public monuments, artist portraits, and exhibition and installation views.

Bernie Cleff Collection

The Bernie Cleff Collection contains 1,300 black and white photographic negatives documenting sixteen of Daniel Chester French's outdoor monuments. Bernie Cleff (1927-), a noted Philadelphia photographer, was hired in 1975 to document French's monuments and models for a major retrospective exhibition of the sculptor's works.

Library of Congress Copyright Deposit Collection

The Library of Congress Copyright Deposit Collection contains 2,335 photomechanical reproductions documenting the works of approximately 500 American artists from the 1890s to 1940s. The images were originally deposited with the Library of Congress as part of the copyright registration process for art works. The images, in color and black-and-white, and mounted on oversize board, were received in 1987 through the Library of Congress's gift and exchange transfer program. The collection documents drawings, graphic prints, paintings, and other works of art by late 19th century and early 20th century American artists.

National Endowment for the Arts Artists Archive

The National Endowment for the Arts Artists Archive documents over 5,270 artists who received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts national Visual Artists Fellowship Program and its companion regional programs from 1967 to 1997. When the program was terminated in 1997, supporting visual materials came to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. These materials include approximately 60,000 slides, 400 video tapes, and some audio tapes. In addition, some files contain additional materials submitted by the artists, including resumes, personal statements and exhibition catalogs.

Award information and digital images for artists who have given their permission are searchable onsite in the Research and Scholars Centers.

Photograph Archives Rights and Reproductions

Photographs from the Photograph Archives may not be reproduced without written permission from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Because each collection differs, it is important that you contact the Research and Scholars Center for specific details regarding the collection you are interested in.

Smithsonian American Art Museum Research and Scholars Center
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