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Bartsch, Adam von

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Bartsch, Adam von

    Other Names:

    • Adam von Bartsch

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1757

    Date Died: 1821

    Place Born: Vienna, Vienna state, Austria

    Place Died: Vienna, Vienna state, Austria

    Home Country/ies: Austria

    Subject Area(s): catalogues raisonnés and prints (visual works)

    Career(s): curators


    Museum curator; author of first modern comprehensive catalog of prints, Le Peintre-graveur. Bartsch was the son of a court official of Prince Starhemberg of Austria. He studied academic subjects at the University in Vienna and then drawing and engraving at Viennese Academy of Arts (Kupferstecherakademie) under Jacob Schmuzer (1733-1811). From 1777-1781 he worked in the Imperial Library, cataloging books. Between 1783-4 he was sent to Paris with the print collection’s registrar, Paul Strattmann, to acquire the print collection of the Johann Anton de Peters (1725-1795). Though this attempt was unsuccessful (it was snapped up by the Bibliothèque Royale in Paris) Bartsch learned the art of analyzing prints quickly and first hand. He used his time in Paris to study other print collections, and was successful in purchasing twenty-one Rembrandt prints from Pierre-François Basan (1723-1797). In 1784 Bartsch was in Brussels, where he met the art dealer Domenico Artaria (1765-1823) and further to the Netherlands. Returning to Vienna, Bartsch received his first commission for a catalogue raisonné of prints, that of the collection of Charles Antoine Joseph, Prince de Ligne (1759-1792). Ligne’s death in one of the first battles of the Franco-Austrian war meant Bartsch’s catalog was in fact an auction catalog (it was published in 1794). In it, Bartsch set out the organizing principles of what would be his famous later work, Le Peintre graveur. In 1791 he was appointed curator of the imperial print collection by its director, Gottfried, Baron van Swieten (1734-1803). Bartsch purchased prints, mostly Italian and German ofthe 15th- and 16th-centuries, including those by Marcantonio Raimondi, Heinrich Aldegrever, Wenceslas Hollar, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacque Callot and Claude Lorrain. The Imperial collection expanded nearly 20-fold under his direction. Bartsch was elected to the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts in 1792. In 1794 was named adviser to Albert, Duke of Saxe-Teschen, on his drawings collection. In 1795 Bartsch embarked upon a series of artist’s oeuvre catalogs, beginning with the prints of Antoni Waterloo (1610-1690). Catalogs of the prints of Guido Reni and his pupils, (1795), Rembrandt (1797) and Lucas van Leyden (1798) followed. When the woodblocks commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I celebrating the achievements of his reign were discovered in a monastery, Bartsch set about reprinting them. This series, beginning with Der Triumphzug Kaiser Maximilians I (135 woodcuts, 1796), Die Ehrenpforte (1799), Der Weisskunig (1799) and Die Heiligen aus der Sipp-, Mag- und Schwägerschaft des Kaisers Maximilian I gained him a great reputation. But Bartsch’s greatest achievement lay yet before him. Beginning in 1803, he issued his systematic catalog of major graphic artists, Le Peintre-graveur. In 1812 he was knighted for his work and in 1816 placed in charge of the print collection. Bartsch continued to issue his catalog, completing the final volume of the 21-volume set in 1821, the year of his death. To Bartsch, the term peintres graveur was assigned only to highest graphic works. As opposed to those engravers who merely copied other works, Bartsch viewed the “painter engravers” as artists with originality and technical accomplishment. Bartsch summarized his findings in a collector’s manual entitled Anleitung zur Kupferstichkunde, also published in 1821. His son Ritter Friedrich Joseph Adam von Bartsch, followed him in office of the collection of the Imperial library and was also a knighted as art historian. Bartsch’s classification of prints draws heavily from the lists and annotations made by Pierre-Jean Mariette, fils (1694-1774) the son of the Parisian art dealer and the compiler of print collection of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Mariette’s classification, which included an index of prints, was divided by art periods and artists (in alphabetical sequence) to create a finding aid to the imperial collection. Bartsch’s Peintre-graveur used this classification schema, organizing more than 500 artists by country and school. Each entry was subdivided by subject-matter. He added brief descriptions of the print for easier identification as well as differences in states, and rarity. To help distinguish fakes, illustrations were provided. Bartsch’s work became the first modern print oeuvre catalog in that his systemization depended upon no particular collection or theme. It was intended for collectors, connoisseurs and historians to further scholarship. Following his death, other corpora followed, in some cases addressing artist who were thought not to be peintre-graveurs, such as the 1829 catalog of Maarten van Heemskerck by the librarian Thomas Kerrich (1748-1828). Additional contributors to the Le Peintre-graveur included Joseph Heller.

    Selected Bibliography

    Le Peintre-graveur. 21 vols. Vienna: J. V. Degen, 1803-21; revised and reissued as The Illustrated Bartsch. Walter Strauss, editor. New York: Abaris, 1978- ; Anleitung zur Kupferstichkunde. Vienna: J. B. Wallishausser, 1821, English: Concerning the Administration of the Collection of Prints of the Imperial Court Library in Vienna. New York: Abaris, 1982; Catalogue raisonné de toutes les estampes qui forment l’œuvre de Rembrandt et ceux de ses principaux imitateurs. Vienna: A. Blumauer, 1797.


    Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 382; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. 2nd. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2007, pp. 9-10; Suffield, Laura. “Adam von Bartsch.” Dictionary of Art; Koschatzky, Walter. “Adam von Bartsch: An Introduction to his Life and Work.” The Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 1, pt. 1. New York: Abaris, 1978, pp. vii-xvii; Rieger, R. “Bartsch, Johann Adam.” Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. vol. 7. Munich: K.G. Saur, 1993, pp. 313-14; Stix, Alfred, ed. “Pariser Briefe des Adam Bartsch aus dem Jahre 1784.” Festschrift für Max J. Friedländer: Zum 60. Geburtstag. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann 1927, pp. 312-351.

    Contributors: HB and Lee Sorensen


    HB and Lee Sorensen. "Bartsch, Adam von." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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