Gernsheim Photographic Corpus of Drawings

Federico Barocci, Head and arm of an infant, British Museum, Dept. of Prints and Drawings. Image and original data provided by the Gernsheim Photographic Corpus of Drawings

The Gernsheim Photographic Corpus of Drawings and Artstor are collaborating to create an online version of the renowned photographic archive of old master drawings in the Digital Library. For more than half a century, the Corpus has been documenting old master drawings in scores of archives, libraries, and museums around the world. An ongoing effort of Dr. Walter and Dr. Jutta Gernsheim, the Corpus embodies an unsurpassed commitment to serving the scholarly needs of the international community of art historians. The Corpus presently embodies approximately 189,000 extraordinary black-and-white photographs of European drawings from the 15th to the early 20th century. As a subscription service, the Corpus is only available in its entirety at a small number of scholarly photo archives in Europe, Britain, and the United States. Incomplete copies of the Corpus may be found in a few other locations, but this remarkable resource has never been readily accessible to the majority of scholars, teachers and curators who would benefit from consulting its riches.

Through its ongoing partnership with the Corpus, Artstor has digitized and is progressively releasing a comprehensive online version of this invaluable art historical resource. As the project proceeds, Artstor is engaging the participation of the many museums whose drawings collections are represented in the Corpus, and anticipates making digital versions of the images available to Artstor users in phases.

Artstor is now inviting further museums to participate in this important project. Antony Griffiths, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, voiced the museum's strong support for Artstor's effort to both preserve the Corpus and help it enter a new era as a key resource for the art historian — something that has been high on the agenda of the larger community of drawings curators. "The British Museum has been associated with the Gernsheim Photographic Corpus since its beginning, and has seen it grow into the greatest archive of photos of Old Master drawings in the world. We are now delighted that it will be made more widely available through Artstor."

In reaching this agreement, James Shulman, President of Artstor, expressed Artstor's enthusiasm in collaborating to use digital technologies to make this unique resource more broadly available for noncommercial educational and scholarly purposes. “The Gernsheim Corpus is truly a unique labor of love,” says Shulman. “We at Artstor are privileged and excited to be playing a role in making this unrivaled reference resource more widely available to the community of scholars and curators in a new medium.”

Gernsheim project participants (as of 2012):

  • Art Gallery of South Australia (128 images) - in progress
  • Ashmolean Museum (4,254 images) - launched
  • British Museum (17,323 images) - launched
  • Clark Art Institute (281 images) - partially launched
  • Cleveland Museum of Art (811 images) - partially launched
  • Faculdade de Belas Artes, Universidade do Porto (89 images) - in progress
  • Fogg Art Museum (2,163 images)-partially launched
  • Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum (images 1,776) - in progress
  • Holkham Estate (76 images) - in progress
  • Instituzione Biblioteca Classense (404 images)-in progress
  • Klassik Stiftung Weimar (1,031 images) - in progress
  • Kunstmuseum Bern (404 images) - in progress
  • Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg (509 images) - in progress
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (3,102 images) - partially launched
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts Rennes (316 images) - in progress
  • Museo del Prado (1,429 images) - in progress
  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (3,909 images) - in progress
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1,017 images) - partially launched
  • Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel (741 images) - in progress
  • National Gallery of Canada (809 images) - in progress
  • National Gallery of Scotland (3,061 images) - partially launched
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art (556 images) - partially launched
  • Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe (1,609 images) - in progress
  • Statens Museum for Kunst (3,299 images) - in progress
  • Victoria & Albert Museum (5,608 images) - launched
  • Windsor Castle, Royal Library (872 images) - in progress

Artstor anticipates inviting a team of collaborators, including both collaborating museums and such key photo archives as the Biblioteca Hertziana (Rome) to join in a coordinated effort to normalize, enhance and convert to electronic form the cataloging data associated with the Corpus. Artstor also welcomes the collaboration of the Artstor also welcomes the collaboration of the Cleveland Museum of Art in this project. The museum's copy of the Gernsheim Corpus is both comprehensive and well-preserved, and using this copy as a scanning source will allow Artstor to take full advantage of the enormous care with which the photographic prints have been developed by the Gernsheims.