German Sales 1901-1945

Under the title "German Sales", about 9,110 historical auction catalogues from 1901 to 1945, mainly published in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, are currently being made available online and in open access. The project included around 390 auction houses. The auction catalogues are the basis for research on the art market of the first half of the 20th century, on questions of collecting and taste formation as well as on individual artists and art genres. In addition, they are an indispensable source for provenance research. The auction catalogues, which are today scattered in many art and museum libraries, were previously difficult to access. To date, copies from more than 50 libraries and museums have been digitally merged. Centrally offered detailed search optionsincluding full text search now simplify and optimize access to the material. The auction catalogues, which were determined for the years 1930 to 1945 and for the years 1901 to 1929, are published in a bibliography and accessible through various registers.

Responsible for the offer are the Heidelberg University Library and the Art Library of the National Museums in Berlin.

It was created within the framework of two DFG-funded projects:

  • In the cooperation project “German Sales 1930–1945. Art Works, Art Markets, and Cultural Policy” carried out between 2010 and 2013 around 3,200 auction catalogues from the years 1930 to 1945 from Germany, Switzerland and Austria and the countries occupied by Germany during the Second World War were recorded, digitized and made available online. In addition to the Heidelberg University Library and the Berlin Art Library, the project partner was the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. In addition to the DFG, the project was also funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the VolkswagenStiftung.
  • In the follow-up project „Art – Auctions – Provenances. The German Art Trade as Reflected in Auction Catalogues from 1901 to 1929”, that was completed in 2019, 5,910 auction catalogues published between 1901 and 1929 in Germany, Austria and Switzerland were identified, recorded bibliographically, digitized and made freely accessible online.

The bibliographic data of the auction catalogues generated in Berlin and the OCR data of the individual catalogue entries generated in Heidelberg were made available to the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Approximately 832,000 records from around 5,000 catalogues of the paintings, drawings and sculptures auctioned in German-speaking countries were transferred to the sales description and sales content databases of the Getty Provenance Index®.

Even after completion of these projects, "German Sales" will be further expanded. On the one hand further catalogues of the years 1901–1945 are to be determined and made available online, on the other hand it is planned to extend the processing period to the 19th century. In addition, gallery and sales catalogues should also be integrated into the offer.


Half a Million Records on Early 20th-Century German Art Market Added to Getty Provenance Index

After four years of work, the Getty Provenance Index® has added nearly 570,000 records of artwork sales for the years 1900 to 1929 to give researchers in provenance and the art market unprecedented information on auction sales in Germany and Austria during the volatile years of the early twentieth century, including the periods of World War I, the Weimar Republic, and the years of politically sanctioned Nazi looting prior to and during World War II.

These new records represent individual auction sales records for paintings, sculptures, drawings, and miniatures recorded in over 8,700 German sales catalogs published between 1900 and 1929. Each record is linked to the full PDF of its corresponding catalog on the website of the Heidelberg University Library.

The new release brings the total number of records of German and Austrian art sales in the Provenance Index to just over 830,000 individual items, all of which can be searched in the Getty Provenance Index®.

What you can find where?

In you have access to about 9.600 auction catalogues, sorted by auction houses, as well as the possibility to search the full texts of the entire digitized material.

At present, the Getty Provenance Index® provides access to more than 831.700 data sets on paintings, drawings or sculptures from around 5.000 German language auction catalogues from 1901-1945. It, furthermore, provides a detailed search function as well as additional information on prices, buyers etc.

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