The redoubtable print makers, N. Currier and Currier & Ives, successful New York printmakers from 1834 to 1907, had a pretty good year at auction in 2011. Of one hundred and thirty-six lots of their work offered by 24 auction houses, 105 were sold. They were once important American printmakers but long ago fell out of fashion. In the digital age they are making a comeback, aided by the proliferation of auction houses and their increasing ability to display images extensively. Their appeal is in the “seeing.” For new as well as experienced collectors visual presentation raises awareness and the Curriers and other 19th century printmakers are benefiting from the web’s ability to bring images to life. Collectors may buy them to collect as a category or simply to illustrate and illuminate other collections such as I do – of the Hudson Valley.
The Courier oeurve was extensive, some 8,000 known subjects, portraying current events, local scenes and homely homilies. To my eye they are a window on the fervor and emotions of the day, their rise mirroring the emerging working class’ desire for culture.
I mention Currier because they are illustrative of the transformation the web brings to the collecting of works on papers. Not so long ago one would have had to buy one of the many small books or even the rather expensive two-volume catalogue raisonne compiled by Gale Research to develop an overview of the Curriers. These days their work regularly appears on listing sites and in auction rooms.
As to online resources the Curriers are a deepening thread in the AED; 2,041 records currently, and we are adding another 7,500 20th century auction records this spring. In the transition within the world of printed material where some things rise and others fall the Curriers are rising.