Among the approximately 120 sketchbooks kept in the Städel Museum, Adolf Schreyer’s eight little books occupy a special position (Inv. SG 3080 to SG 3087). Unlike the other artists represented in the collection, who used their books on journeys and hikes or in their studios to record what they had seen and prepare compositions, Schreyer used his books as sales and work catalogues. In them, he listed the key data of completed transactions and documented his own works, which he had sent to various art dealers ‒ purely for personal reference.
In seven of the eight books, Schreyer recorded in the 1860s and 1870s only those works that were for sale at a particular art dealer. To this end, he sketched out his own compositions and made brief notes on the information about the works and sales. In addition to the work for the Berlin-based dealers Rudolf Lepke, to which this book was dedicated, there are such directories for the London-based Ernest Gambart (SG 3080), the Paris-based Goupil & Cie (SG 3081), Tedesco (SG 3084) and François Petit (SG 3085), the Boston-based Williams & Everett (also SG 3085) as well as the New York-based William Schaus (SG 3083) and Samuel Putman Avery (SG 3086). In keeping with Schreyer’s specialisation in depictions of horses and riders in mainly Eastern European and North African landscapes, the compositions sketched in the seven books show exclusively riders ‒ Cossacks, Walachians, Arabs etc. ‒ on horses or in sleighs and carriages drawn by horses.
In an eighth book, Schreyer listed more than 600 works which he sold over a period of nearly four decades to private individuals, art associations and various gallery owners, including most of the art dealers mentioned above (SG 3087). Although he did not make any sketches of the pieces he included in this comprehensive book of sales, the titles of the works reveal that most of them were also depictions of riders.
Schreyer used the sales book for a list of paintings sold to Rudolph Lepke between 1866 and 1874. Although the comprehensive sales book (SG 3087) shows that Lepke bought works from Schreyer until the mid-1880s, and that Schreyer therefore no longer listed the works sold after 1874, it is, with its 21 entries, one of the comparatively intensively used ‘dealer books’. As mentioned above, Schreyer captured the listed works in drawing and writing by repeating the respective compositions in pencil and writing down above and below these sketches the year and month of sale, a descriptive short title and usually the dimensions of the respective painting. He rendered his compositions with quick and confident strokes, sometimes more or less simplified, but generally realised his drawings sufficiently to give a fairly accurate idea of the painting in question. Often, he also briefly noted the weather or time of day.
This procedure enabled Schreyer, on the one hand, to maintain an overview of the works that had been sold, which are often very similar in terms of their pictorial content and structure. On the other hand, it made it easier for him to remember the sold compositions more precisely at a later date and, if necessary, to reuse or vary them for other customers (see SG 3080, sheet 12v and SG 3085, sheet 2r).
For a full sketchbook description, please see “Research”.
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