Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchives

The Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchives collaboration with ARTstor includes three major collections totaling nearly 25,000 images.

A.C. Cooper Archive

This archive consists of approximately 10,000 glass plate and nitrate negatives, as well as polyester "interpositives," which were produced by the London photographic firm of A.C. Cooper. Established in 1918, A.C. Cooper was one of the first companies to specialize in photographing works of art, whether in galleries, auction houses, museums, or private collections. The Frick Art Reference Library maintained a subscription to A. C. Cooper's photographs of lots offered for sale at Sotheby's and Christie's from 1922-1937. As such, they provide a visual record of rarely-published art works, as they passed through London art auctions during the 1920s and 1930s, often in transit from one private collection to another. The entire archive is represented in ARTstor, with a particular focus on paintings, but also including prints and drawings. 

Sansoni Archive

This archive consists of approximately 8,800 glass plate negatives, which were produced in the early 20th century by the Florentine photographer Mario Sansoni. From 1925-1951, Sansoni photographed works in situ in remote towns throughout Italy. In some cases, the Sansoni negatives are the only record of works of art that have since become unavailable to the public, severely damaged, or permanently lost. The entire archive is represented in ARTstor, documenting Medieval and Renaissance paintings, fresco cycles, and other forms of architectural decoration throughout Italy. 

American Private Collections and Small Repositories

This archive consists of 40,000 works in American private collections and small public repositories, such as historical societies and colleges. The negatives were produced in the early 20th century by Frick Art Reference Library staff photographers, with the largest group taken by Ira W. Martin and Thurman Rotan. The Frick photographers traveled throughout the United States to photograph works of art, while also capturing invaluable information from their owners, whether portrait subjects, family genealogy, and anecdotal history. Selections from this archive are represented in ARTstor with approximately 6,000 images, primarily documenting American and European paintings.

The Frick Art Reference Library was founded by Helen Clay Frick in 1920 "to encourage and develop the study of the fine arts, and to advance the general knowledge of kindred subjects." Today, it is one of the outstanding art history libraries in the United States. In addition to a book collection relating to European and American fine arts and decorative arts from the 4th to the mid-20th century, the library also houses an extensive photographic research archive. The Photoarchive holds over one million photographs that document the work of over 36,000 artists.

Within the Photoarchive, there are approximately 60,000 large-format negatives, which resulted from photo-expeditions sponsored by Ms. Frick in the United States and Europe from 1920-1967. During these campaigns, commissioned photographers gained access to churches, historic monuments, and private collections to photograph works of art. In some cases, these negatives are the only visual record of works that have subsequently been damaged, lost, or destroyed. Scholars also prize the Photoarchive's documentation of lesser-known works in collections that are generally unavailable to the public and are thereby largely unpublished. In an effort to preserve and expand access to these often fragile negatives, the Frick Art Reference Library has undertaken several digitization projects through this partnership with ARTstor.