Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Bénézit in English? C’est vrai!

Bénézit’s Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs de tous les temps et de tous les pays [Critical and Documentary Dictionary of Painters, Sculptors, Designers, and Engravers of All Times and All Places] has long been a standard art reference work. It provides birth and death information, a biographical narrative, as well as listings of works held by museum collections and historical auction information. Many entries also include artist’s signatures and monograms.

Despite the esteem in which art researchers and collectors have had for this reference work, it was long only available for readers of French. This was until the 2006 publication of a fourteen volume English translation entitled Dictionary of Artists.

The Bénézit first appeared in print in 1911 with the publication of the first of three volumes which were completed in 1923. This first edition established the format that subsequent editions have followed. Emmanuel Bénézit was the editor for this original set that was written by “a group French and foreign specialist authors” [un groupe d'écrivains spécialistes français et étrangers]. An eight volume second edition was published between 1948 and 1955, followed by a third edition in 1976, both under the direction of Bénézit’s heirs.

In 1999 a fourth edition in fourteen volumes was published under the direction of Jacques Busse. The English language edition is based on this edition and actually has expanded coverage. However, do note that although biographical coverage of each subsequent edition supercedes the previous ones, the older historic auction results do not always make it into newer editions.

The Bénézit Dictionary of Artists can be found on open reference shelves at the Art, Music and Recreation Center reference desk.

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