Creating skills & techniques in people to utilize the Internet to document artist’s work


The aim of the Cataloguing Art Works component of The Forrest Project is to provide interested persons with the skills, researching approaches and techniques to utilize the Internet to document the works of an artist.

Here we set out key steps in the process of researching, documenting and publishing on the Internet through this website.

Cataloguers of Works for Publication:

Before the appearance of the computer and Internet it was not feasible to contemplate assembling images of an artist’s completeworks, particularly if the person had been prolific in his/her output. There has nevertheless been a demand for such works. When this has been undertaken it has been done with a limited run for a known number of potential clients, who were prepared to pay an exorbitant amount for the privilege of owning such a book. Even then, the publisher selected a limited number of works to be displayed in colour, with perhaps the majority illustrated in black and white. Constraints upon the length of the book could result in the number of illustrations representing perhaps less than 5 percent of the artist’s total output.

The works of a number of artists from previous generations have become so attractive as items for investment, that large sums are being paid for works of sometimes little known artists. It has also become a common occurrence for previously unknown works of such artists to be displayed publicly. This undesirable situation presents an opportunity for forgers to fraudulently present art works as highly prized examples of the work of an artist from another generation. The situation also places a burden upon experienced persons to declare whether or not a work is that of a particular artist. In previous generations artists often did not sign their work, give a date or even a title. Yet the style of painting can be so well known to an experienced person as to render identification no great difficulty.

The appearance of the computer and Internet has now made feasible a long term aim to catalogue the complete works of an artist. This type of research project is made possible by an electronic record being able to include colour images in a document with little overriding limit on length. A cataloguer of the works of an artist may be a historical researcher, art historian, art gallery staff member, an authority on the work of a particular artist, an investor or perhaps members of the family of an artist.

The Forrest Project has recognized the fact that the computer and Internet have made such a catalogue possible. Members of the Project explored the avenues which existed and after a period of systematic research, produced the Catalogue of Paintings by Haughton Forrest (1826-1925). Investors who specialize in Forrest paintings may now obtain this Catalogue and read details of the life, painting style, view coloured images and consult records of a major proportion of the total output of this artist. The acquisition of images is however still ongoing so that the Catalogue is a work in progress. The Forrest Project has undertaken to publish dated versions of the Catalogue at little cost to investors, galleries, collectors and art historians.

It is recognized by The Forrest Project that others will be interested to utilize proven techniques in order to catalogue the works of further artists. The Forrest Project wishes to assist those who are interested to learn to catalogue the works of artists. The result of such a project would be regarded as the intellectual property of the cataloguer. The Forrest Project would also be interested to publish and market catalogues of art works at a nominal cost, within the reach of people in developing countries.

The Forrest Project further recognizes that peoples of developing countries have a need to make known to the outside world, works of art that are nationally important. Cataloguing works of art would be of considerable interest in many cultures. Artists who have been known for hundreds of years in China, India, Japan and central Asia, could in this way become better known in many other countries.

It is intended through this website to assist cataloguers of many cultures to collect images of art works, to publish and market their own catalogues.



Working with an Editor on a Catalogue Proposed for Publication:


A person who is interested to catalogue the paintings or other works of an artist should contact The Forrest Project before commencing. A researcher will be assigned to work with the cataloguer (termed an associate) through the full period of researching, collecting and writing. This can save a lot of time and avoid the need to have to go back and redo work covering perhaps hundreds of works of art. Learning on the job can be a valuable and pleasant experience.

The researcher assigned to a cataloguer is in effect a teacher, mentor and an editor. The same person may also have the experience to assist a writer or genealogist to conduct research more effectively. It is envisaged that a number of researchers will be university staff members who are seeking to expand their careers in different directions. They will in many instances be experienced researchers with considerable artistic and publishing backgrounds.

The experience given here at no cost to a person interested to learn art cataloguing, is considered one of the ways that The Forrest Project may deliver its philanthropic objective. The Project hopes to encourage people who are already in employment to learn a new field, building income as sales of their works occur around the world. A cataloguer who has successfully published will be considered for a position as a researcher with The Forrest Project.

Planning the Electronic Manuscript:

Collecting and writing in order to have a published catalogue appear on the Internet for downloading by clients, necessitates an understanding, that many restrictions that apply to bound books no longer exist. This can give the cataloguer greater versatility in planning and setting out the final record of paintings. An art catalogue is accepted from the outset as being so large that it could never be published in the same way as a bound paper book. Wherever a work of art is in colour then the image to be recorded is also to be in colour, as near as possible to the original.

The researcher assigned to assist will also work with the cataloguer to devise a logical way to taxonomically group art works, e.g. paintings by subject types. A section will then need to be included which clearly describes the taxonomic classification used.

If little is known about the life of the artist then historic research may be necessary, culminating in a description of his/her life. It may also be desirable to write another section on the artistic skills and style of the artist.

Assistance Required from a Researcher and the Agreed Percentage Distribution of Income from Sales:

The Board of Partners has proposed that a researcher should receive up to 80 percent of the retail price paid for a downloaded publication, i.e. the same rate of remuneration as for other publications. A person with limited capability would receive a lesser agreed percentage.

Negotiations to agree upon an acceptable rate of remuneration for an associate should be undertaken at a time when the degree of assistance required from a researcher had become clear.

Writing and Editing the Catalogue:

Upon sending sections of the catalogue to the researcher and receiving confirmation of one’s self-efficacy in mastering skills while on the job, a cataloguer can progress with much more confidence. An important aim of The Forrest Project is to prevent the cataloguer from having to reinvent the wheel. Having a researcher/editor follow behind the cataloguer can make the project a pleasing experience.

Researching from Private Family Resources:

It is usual for an artist’s works to have been given to family members and handed down through the generations. A decision to catalogue an artist’s paintings will as a result tend to involve family members, some of whom will be keen to participate in the cataloguing process. If the artist has been prolific, then there could be as many as 100 paintings hanging on the walls of homes of descendants.

The cataloguer should secure the goodwill and recruit the assistance of as many family members as possible. This will be necessary to offset the fact that there may also be some who for reasons of their own, will refuse to cooperate. The main problem to overcome is the tendency of people to use a digital camera with a flash and to photograph a painting in situ on a wall. Lighting conditions can be so inhibiting that only a low resolution image will result. This will in some instances be the only image that can be obtained.

The cataloguer should encourage family members to experimentally photograph a painting indoors and again outdoors in natural diffuse light. The photographer will usually be surprised to find that the sky of a landscape will change from a cream colour indoors to blue outdoors.

Where a painting has been mounted behind glass, then care needs to be taken to avoid reflections from the glass coming back into the photograph, superimposing an image of the photographer upon the painting. Upon learning to photograph paintings, family members tend sometimes to find this type of collecting to be pleasantly addictive. With luck family members may know of collectors of paintings of the artist and seek permission to photograph whole collections. An interested family member should be encouraged to continue this work through subsequent phases of the project.

Photographs taken with digital cameras are conveniently recorded on a memory card, from which images can be entered directly to a computer file and then emailed. Occasionally, old photographs taken 30 years ago will be contributed by family members. Mild deterioration should not be of concern. Scanning will usually result in an image which can be manipulated with suitable software.

All images, whether taken with a digital camera or scanned from old photographs, require checking with appropriate software. The researcher assigned by The Forrest Project will introduce the associate to cost-free software and teach him/her how to use it. It will enable images to be obtained with a century of built-up residue removed, with light intensity adjusted and resolution enhanced.

The choice of software is critical. A poor choice may result in an unwitting cataloguer obtaining an image of a de-framed painting, at such low kb, that only a poor resolution image can result. It is necessary to download good quality software, available at no cost, for a cataloguer to be able to recover a high resolution image for inclusion in the catalogue.

Researching from the Internet:

Art works which have been auctioned in recent years will usually have had an image displayed on the Internet. Although these images are usually at about 100 kb or less, enhancing with software can often result in a presentable image for inclusion in the catalogue. Regular searching of Internet websites of each of the auction houses and art dealers, needs to be undertaken in order to obtain images of works of the artist of interest as they appear in the market place. Care should be taken to record the name of the art dealer or auction house which has provenance. The title of every image of an art work should also display the various provenances which could be claimed for it.

Auction houses range in quality from the rough and ready to highly professional, as shown in the quality of their images on the Internet. Poor images can usually be resurrected, except when marred by a low resolution camera or a strong flash reflection. Photographs taken at an angle to a painting and in limited light are usually able to be recovered.

Researching from Galleries, Books and Library Displays:

Art galleries and libraries also display art works in their collections on the Internet. These institutions which take pride in the quality of their work, tend to display some of the most professional images. Their images have generally been obtained with diffuse natural light and at high resolution.

Paintings displayed as illustrations in books are a new field field which is presently receiving attention by major libraries. They have been catalogued and images of art works in them are searchable. However, obtaining images over the Internet has still to be resolved. The only way this can presently be done is to identify a book containing an image of interest, then physically go to a library and scan the image.

Researching from Digitised Press Reports:

Numerous paintings which have never been signed, dated or given a title may be identified from the press report published in the year they first appeared. In the 19th century this was the tradition in the UK and Australian press. If a painting had been exhibited in the window of a business house, a gallery or displayed at an exhibition, it was invariably described by a press reviewer. A systematic search of press reviews for a 19th century artist, undertaken by The Forrest Project between 1870 and 1910, resulted in about 1,000 records with dates showing when The Forrest Project each painting first appeared. By comparison only 600 corresponding images were obtained from the Internet and private collections.

Many more records of paintings without images can be expected to result from this type of search. As previously unseen paintings appear on display by auction houses they can often be recognized from a 19th century description.

Illustrations and Photography for the Title and Cover:

Designing the title and cover illustration for the manuscript is important. If the family of the artist has become involved then they will tend to treat the catalogue with reverence. The choice of cover photographs will usually present no difficulty when several hundred images are likely to have been amassed.

A Statement by a Distinguished Person:

A catalogue can have considerably more meaning to a family if a distinguished senior member has been encouraged to make an introductory statement on the first inside page. The Forrest Project researcher will work with the associate to help an elderly person or encourage a distinguished academic, to furnish an appropriate statement.

Automating Percentages of Payments from Sales to be Paid Direct to Agreed Accounts:

As for other published works, a catalogue of works of art is able to be structured so that agreed percentages of income from sales are automatically paid intothe accounts of verified recipients, i.e. The Forrest Project and its partner, associate and researcher.

The Risk of Forgery:

The Forrest Project has carefully considered whether we might be playing into the hands of forgers. The views of experienced authorities in the art world have been sought on this issue. The prevailing view is that works of art should become as well known as possible, through display of the highest resolution images which can be obtained.

If a question of authenticity arises, then a catalogue that contains an image with a list of provenances will give authorities an immediate start when making enquiries. The last known auction house or art dealer to have handled a painting will be shown as having provenance. On the other hand, if a painting has never been shown publicly, then the confidential records of the cataloguer will show where the painting is privately housed. This information is otherwise never made known in deference to the privacy and security needs of every owner.