Reviewed June 2019
Carol Ng-He, Exhibits Coordinator
Arlington Heights Memorial Library
Monet Catalogue Raisonné – Werkverzeichnis Volume I to IV was originally published in 1996 and was an editorial partnership between the Wildenstein Institute and Benedikt Taschen. The website offers free and open access to the scanned publication, which is a comprehensive study of French impressionist painter Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) oeuvre. It consists of four volumes: volume one is a revised edition of the catalogue raisonné that includes the artist’s biography and was later published as a stand-alone study of the artist’s work. Volumes two through four documents over 2,000 rare black and white and color reproductions of Monet’s art made over the course of his career. The text in volume one is English, while the other volumes include English, French, and German text.
The online Monet Catalogue Raisonné has a clean interface and straight-forwarded navigation. A slideshow highlights pages from one of the volumes is on loop on top of the homepage, followed by a brief description of content and the cover images of the four volumes. Users can choose to view each volume by clicking on the cover image. Once chosen, a full view of the volume appears along with four icons on the left side toolbar. The options here are: zoom in, page overview, full screen, and search.
The structure of the website is overall coherent. The site is adaptive to desktop and mobile devices, though the former would be preferred for the ease of navigation and for the reading comfort. Users also have the option to find specific pages by using the Page Overview feature, which shows thumbnails of the page spreads with the page numbers clearly marked.
Because the website is a scanned version of its print copy, users view the content by “flipping” through pages as if reading an ebook. Other digital catalogues raisonnés like The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne, an online catalogue raisonné, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works Online, and the Catalogue Raisonné of Salvador Dali (see the ARLIS/NA Multimedia & Technology Review here) which have high level of interactivity and allow users to customize their search. In contrast, Monet Catalogue Raisonné has a much-simplified search functionality. While significant elements such as the title, medium, year, provenance, exhibition history, and bibliography are included in the volumes, users are limited keywords searches instead of being able to filter results with the mentioned elements. The website does not have the built-in option for printing the art reproductions or contents from the website like other digital catalogues raisonnés. Researchers may also experience difficulty finding this Monet Catalogue Raisonné as it does not show up in Google search unless users know of the institute.
Accessibility may be another issue for users. The pages can only be scaled up to one level with its zoom feature. As each of the four volumes is located in separate links, users have to jump from browser to browser if they want to make cross-checking. With the fixed placements of the images and texts in the pages, users may experience inconvenience to locate the desired information. Due to its already-published status, the website does not necessarily reflect the most up-to-date information on auxiliary scholar texts.
Despite the above limitations, the Monet Catalogue Raisonné’s rich contents and thorough account would be particularly useful for curators and scholars. Advanced undergraduate and graduate students may also find it enriching especially for learning about the artist’s biography.