On Connoisseurship

Frederick G. Schab, 1994

Schab is a dealer in Old Master and modem drawings and prints. His father founded the firm of William H. Schab, Inc. in New York in 1939. William Schab helped sponsor the scholarship of Joseph Meder whose research resulted in an important catalogue raisonre’ of Albrecht Durer’s work.

Professor Zerner, well known for his contributions to scholarship, should be complimented for the modesty with which he addresses the subject of connoisseurship. Admittedly, to harvest the potential esthetic, spiritual and cultural values of an art object, there is no substitute for simply looking at it, Richard Offner would even invoke staring at it! But there are surely other resources available today which make the practice of connoisseurship a hopeful enterprise.

In the field of master drawings, a wide array of exhibitions in museums and art galleries permit a collector to educate his or her taste and undertake extensive comparisons. The catalogues of such exhibitions are usually filled with the latest research and bibliography. This accumulated literature is, in part, available on the market and in libraries. But it is at this point that the role of the dealer can become significant. Many dealers themselves own extensive reference libraries and are in a position to interpret this literature.

When newly discovered master drawings come on the market we can, occasionally, expect them to extend and enhance our judgment and appreciation of an artist. Old Master prints may appear on the market which reveal new aspects and qualities regarding their origin. Dealers, through whose hands have passed a variety of impressions, may discover new qualities, even in the most well known and familiar works.

©1998 R de Koster