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Gunnar Widforss Catalogue Raisonné Project

Guide to the Catalogue

A digital catalogue raisonné makes it possible to easily update the records and to add new works. The Gunnar Widforss Catalogue Raisonné will be regularly updated as research reveals new information, works change ownership, exhibitions are presented, and new publications released.

At publication (October 2020), the catalogue includes more than 1,200 known works in public and private collections and a large number of works whose current location is unknown. The details regarding each artwork have been provided by the owners and the author. Verification of the provenance, exhibition, and literature histories is ongoing as works change ownership and previously unknown paintings come to light. As a result, the catalogue is always a work in progress.

The Gunnar Widforss Institute  welcomes any additional information related to the artist, his works, and the history of the period as it pertains to the artist and his works. See the contact link at the bottom of each page.

Special Collections

Within Widforss’ body of work there are several significant sets of paintings:

    • Paintings made of redwood trees in Humboldt County California in the summer of 1925 – notable for how many paintings he made of redwoods that summer and their consistently strong execution, also the fact that his time there is well documented by his visit with the Louis Sands family of Glendale Arizona and the visit by Newton Drury and John C. Merriam, board members of the Save the Redwoods League, who traveled to Humboldt County to meet with him
    • Inner Grand Canyon – paintings that reveal Widforss’ adventurous nature. At a time when virtually all paintings of Grand Canyon were made from the rim (a couple of rare exceptions were made by Louis Akin), Widforss regularly hiked in the canyon to paint and on at least a couple of occasions spent multiple weeks at Phantom Ranch painting

Organization of the catalogue

The default organization of this index is first according to artistic medium (paintings, followed by drawings) and then chronologically. This order can be changed by using the "Sort catalogue entries" feature.

Sorting records: from the catalogue index page the list can either be sorted by date, object type, or size; or filtered by date or by subject/location.

Catalogue Entry: each work has a catalogue-entry page. There are three tabs below the essential object information: (1) the object’s provenance and exhibition history; (2) commentary and links to archival and historical materials; (3) related works.

Title: the catalogue uses the title currently accepted by the owner of the work. Titles used in past exhibitions and publications are also included. Some titles associated with paintings are often those given by later owners, dealers or auction houses, and in some cases have been incorrect.

Catalogue Number: a catalogue number has been randomly assigned to each work. It follows the title (CR #). It can be helpful to researchers in returning to the entry for a specific work, and it can be used in the search box.

Date: Widforss didn’t date all of his works, and by the mid-1920s he did so less frequently.

Inscription information: Widforss signed his works a few different ways, and in some early paintings included the location.

Drawings: Widforss didn’t leave many drawings. George Collins, one of the artist’s Park Service friends, said that he would do very detailed preliminary drawings before beginning a painting. In a few unfinished works the initial drawing can still be seen. Most of the known drawings are graphite pencil on buff-colored drawing paper. The largest set is from the artist’s 1919-1920 trip to Tunisia, notable because they are all figures; a subject that the artist isn’t known for. However, if you look through the set of Tunisian paintings, you can see that the figure drawings were quick studies for figures that made their way into some of the paintings of street scenes.

Reproductions: the catalogue includes a large representation of reproductions, such as postcards made from the artist’s works, and other ephemeral material.

Historical Materials: Related historical materials are attached to some of the records.

Collections/Owners: the only collections or owners identified in the catalogue are those that are current or past owners of works published in the catalogue. The date the picture was believed to have entered that collection, if known, follows the name of the collection. The number in parentheses following the museum credit line is the accession number assigned to the work by the museum that owns it.

Exhibitions: the only exhibitions included on the web site are those in which a Widforss work  appeared. For earlier exhibitions, particularly those during the artist’s lifetime, information on which specific works were included is limited, usually only identified by the title. As titles can change, we are often unable to identify the specific works listed.

Literature: the bibliography includes publications related to Widforss and his work as well as those that refer to specific exhibitions and other events in his life. It also includes several unpublished exhibition catalogs.

A Note on the Photography

The photographs of works in the catalogue come from a variety of sources and as such they vary greatly in quality, although at this time most are of reasonable to excellent quality. Initially, a large set came from the archives at the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to many of the artist’s personal items, the archive contains materials collected by the Belknaps as they were working on their 1969 publication, Gunnar Widforss: Painter of the Grand Canyon. Among the items donated by the Belknaps are 80 photos of paintings. Generally of low-quality, they range from 35mm slides, to 3 x 5 prints, and Polaroid prints. They were collected by the Belknaps from some of the original owners of Widforss’ paintings.

Since then, I have photographed hundreds of paintings, many of them belonging to Widforss family members and other collectors in Sweden. Many others have been generously provided by museums, auction houses, galleries, and private collectors. Uncredited photographs were taken by myself.

Alan Petersen