Created 2007, updated 2014
Author: Research Services
Sir Joseph Duveen, who was among the most prominent art dealers of the first half of the 20th century, gained international fame for selling European Old Master paintings, antique furnishings, and other objets d'art to American collectors for record prices. Founded by Joseph Duveen's father and uncle in the late 1860s, Duveen Brothers experienced its greatest success during Joseph's tenure as president of the firm, 1909 to 1939. During this period, troubled economic conditions in Europe, coupled with the vast disposable income of America's millionaire class, created the ideal market condition for the transference of European art treasures, particularly paintings, to the mansions of America. Duveen took full advantage of the trend and remained a dominant figure in the art market throughout his career.
The business archive of the Duveen firm, known as the Duveen Brothers records, chronicles this important period in American collecting history and serves as a rich resource for scholars, especially those conducting provenance research and those studying the history of collecting. The archive is now preserved in the Getty Library. It contains a vast amount of material including stock books, sales books, invoice books, shipping receipts, customer ledgers, loose photographs, 2,000 glass negatives, and hundreds of correspondence files that include letters to, from, and about clients, museums, scholars, and other dealers.
In 2006, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, placed on deposit at the Getty Library a large number of additional archival materials relating to Duveen Brothers, including scrapbooks, photo albums, research files, restoration photographs, and authentication certificates. These items had constituted part of the Duveen Brothers library, which was acquired by the Clark Art Institute in the 1960s.
The Clark material, which was on long-term loan has now been donated to the Getty Research Institute, has been processed and is now available for research along with the rest of the archive. The Duveen Brothers library, which included numerous artist monographs and sales catalogs, was integrated into the Clark Art Institute's general holdings and is not part of the loan to the Getty Research Institute.
Duveen Brothers storeroom, New York (detail), ca. 1920. The Getty Research Institute, 960015