Enthusiasm is the duty of understanding before the night fatal to remembrance.

Frederick Sommer
Aperture 10:4 1962


Catalogue Raisonne for the work of:
Frederick Sommer

Basic update (March 2013)

Significant redesigns have been undertaken to lay the groundwork for online access of the raisonne. At present it is still under construction - in fact this is a test - We are re-building the information collected into a new format that divides the data into smaller organized bits, specific to individual works of art using Filemaker Pro as a platform - this initial work is nearly done. The next phase is to go into paper files and older emails broadening the compilation and details. As work progresses it has been uploaded.

Those interested can contact us for a link and password.

We continue to make inquiries and get replies regarding collections both public and private. As the data we have gets entered, and collated properly we will make another series of inquiries to collectors, museums and dealers.

- thank you very much for the support!

The Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation is undertaking the research to lay the groundwork culminating in a catalog raisonne (spelling variant needed for search engines).

What does that mean? The working trustees of the Foundation are Naomi Lyons, who worked daily with Sommer from 1985 until his death in 1999, and Jeremy Cox, who met Sommer in 1990. We are trying to collect information about all the artwork that Sommer created.

Why are we doing this? The raisonne will assist scholarly research, inform the collecting market, and nurture anyone's curiosity about the evolving variety of images Sommer produced.

The burden on institutions to conduct in-depth research on a single artist that is not directly funded and connected to a significant portion of their holdings leaves a project like this unlikely to ever happen due to the relatively small body of work Sommer produced. There are those who would say that a photographer could never have a complete raisonne – perhaps. But we look at the work done by the National Gallery on artists such as Alfred Stieglitz (culminated under Sarah Greenough), Georgia O'Keeffe (where all but 25 works known were personally inspected) and Mark Rothko (who made over 800 paintings alone) and see that it can be done. These names are not selected simply because of their luminary status in the history of art but because the body of work produced by each is similar in size or larger than Sommer's. The National Gallery set a high standard of research and collector/dealer cooperation that we also strive for.

What have we done so far? Prior to the centennial in 2005 we contacted each of the 43 museums listed in the George Eastman House database as holding work by Sommer, obtained registrar/object reports whenever possible and are building our own database of the collected information.  We have started to do the same with private collectors through direct contact or via the auction houses and dealers. Due to this work, the supporting research we did in producing The Art of Frederick Sommer (2005) and Naomi's extensive time with Sommer, we have been able to work up a list of several hundred photographic images (approx. 245) that Sommer produced. This is the first step in the process.

How far will it go? With everyone's cooperation it can be achieved.

How does this information help? For one, it will help collectors to understand the relative rarity of Sommer's work. With the cumulative information we believe it will help to loosely date when certain prints were made and how many were eventually produced over Sommer's lifetime.

How will it be presented? Since a printed catalog raisonne is likely to be of limited use to general libraries we intend to make the information available via a searchable database on the internet.

What information will be collected? Primarily of importance are the dimensions of the dry-mount board, the image, when the prints was acquired and any markings (i.e. signature, title, etc. anything written on the back of the mount). We will be making note of exhibition and publication histories in addition to building provenance strings along the way.

Is my information private? As private as you want it to be and we can make it. The only people who are working with this information are Naomi Lyons and Jeremy Cox. For some individuals it will make sense for us to act as a liaison for a potential exhibition or scholar. We understand that artwork in private collections often changes hands under the conditions of 'death, debt and divorce' and we greatly appreciate your willingness to assist us in this project.

If you have information you wish to provide now please feel free to contact us.