Members of the ARLIS/NA Artist Files SIG usually work with files about individual artists. At the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection, artist file material is handled a little differently: among the array of topics represented in the kaleidoscope of pictures in the Picture Collection, filed after “Artillery — Naval,” are several artist-related subjects, including “Artists,” Artists — Cartoons,” and “Artists — Materials.” These files contain a surprising variety of pictures taken from all kinds of sources that feature artists doing artist stuff: painting, drawing, sculpting, etc. There are images from books about artists, magazines featuring people making art, newspaper comic strips, and postcards collected together to present the complex picture of what it looks like to be an artist.

Selection of pictures found in the subject file on “Artists.” New York Public Library Picture Collection

One gem among these pictures is a comic from the July 25, 1857 issue of Punch; or, The London Charivari captioned, “What an Artist has to Put Up With. ‘O? look’ee ‘ere, Jane, ‘ere’s one of the Harcobats a-goin’ to do the ladder-trick!’” The wood engraving exemplifies the misunderstood life of the artist, a favorite theme of the illustrators of Punch. The illustration is unsigned, but was possibly drawn by Charles Keene or John Tenniel, who were both active contributors to Punch at the time.

“WHAT AN ARTIST HAS TO PUT UP WITH.” Cartoon published in Punch, July 25, 1857. New York Public Library Picture Collection
Lander Crayon Portraits advertisement, 1898. New York Public Library Picture Collection

An advertisement from 1898 similarly highlights the zany creativity required by artists for portraiture. We have it filed in our Advertising subject heading, but Mr. Lander and his crayon portraits would be an ideal addition to an artist file as well.

Anyone can download the entire list of Picture Collection subject headings.

Hi artist files fans, especially those who are interested in learning more about batch processing sets of artist files names into MARC:

I’m sharing this super-relevant post written by Karen Smith-Yoshimura of OCLC Research. As we learned at the 2018 Artist Files SIG meeting, there is great interest among our group to increase (and improve standardization) of MARC records in WorldCat for artist files collections. As the post underscores, MarcEdit remains the prominent tool for processing data in and out of MARC. The software provides a Swiss-army-knife approach to options and includes a Connexion plug-in, which allows batch-editing of records within MarcEdit and then uploading the edited records back into WorldCat. MarcEdit supports the following services (among many others):

  • Data transformations
  • Enhancing vendor records
  • Building MARC records from spreadsheets
  • Linked data reconciliation
  • De-duplication of records within a file
  • Merging two or more records into one
  • Z39.50 harvesting
  • Metadata reconciliation before sending records to other systems

At the ARLIS/NA 2018 Annual Meeting convocation and awards ceremony, Paul Chan, keynote speaker, introduced the Society to files, a sly riff on our definition of “artist files” that comments on how digital files are elemental parts of an artist’s creative output.

Badlands Unlimited, publisher of this series of digital objects, states, “A file is the work before the work. It is the ‘score’ that directs the printer, video projector, or speaker to create the expression that is experienced. And as such, artist files hold considerable value and potential in contemporary culture. They are works in their own right that illuminate the minds of some of the most compelling artists working today. ”

Selection of Paul Chan “Artist Files”