Made available through the Smithsonian Institution Research Information system

The Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index (AECI) is comprised of 136,494 records describing fine artworks exhibited in the United States and in Canada up through 1876 (the Centennial year). The Catalogue contains information from 1,057 exhibition catalogs, broadsides, newspaper articles, and gallery notices.

The Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index includes artists of all nationalities who were exhibiting in America prior to 1877. Artists contemporary to the times, as well as Old Masters are included. The Index includes all fine arts media: drawings, graphic arts, paintings, photographs, sculpture, and silhouettes. Decorative arts are excluded. In transcribing the data, every attempt has been made to remain faithful to the original catalogues. A separate entry was made each time an artwork was exhibited; no attempt has been made to consolidate records or standardize artist names across exhibitions. Misspellings and inconsistencies reflect the original document. Each record includes, when given: artist name, life dates, address, and nationality, object title, creation date, media, support, dimensions, owner name and address at time of exhibition, exhibition catalog title, and narrative notes. Broad subject terms have also been assigned.

Of particular interest, two catalogs in the Art Exhibition Catalogue Index reflect the earliest recorded art exhibits in the United States: a notice placed in the Virginia Gazette (March 4, 1773) describing a display of six paintings brought by Matthew Pratt to Mrs. Vobe (of Williamsburg, Virginia); and an exhibition of four paintings by Robert Edge Pine shown in Philadelphia in 1784.

The Pre-1877 Art Exhibition Catalogue Index does not attempt to duplicate already published exhibition summaries. Therefore, exhibitions held at the American Academy of Fine Arts & American Art Union, Boston Athenaeum, Brooklyn Art Association, National Academy of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Combined Art Organizations of San Francisco are generally excluded from this online database. Other gaps in coverage may occur because of difficulties in obtaining photocopies of early catalogs.

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