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 New York-based dealers William Schaus, to which this book was dedicated, there are such directories for the also in New York based Samuel Putman Avery (SG 3086), the London-based Ernest Gambart (SG 3080), the Berlin-based Rudolph Lepke (SG 3082), the Paris-based Goupil & Cie (SG 3081), Tedesco (SG 3084) and François Petit (SG 3085) as well as the Boston-based Williams & Everett (also SG 3085). 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.
Although the comprehensive sales book (SG 3087) shows that William Schaus repeatedly purchased works by Schreyer between 1872 and 1892, the artist only kept the list of works for the New York dealer for three years, which he started when he established the business relationship in 1872. To document the four works that Schaus bought from him during this period, Schreyer, as mentioned above, drew reproductions of the respective compositions in pencil and noted above and below these sketches the year, month and sometimes day of sale, a descriptive short title and usually the dimensions of the respective painting. His compositions were mostly simplified with quick and sure strokes and, only in one case, a little bit more detailed, yet all drawings were realised sufficiently to give a fairly accurate idea of the composition of the painting in question.
For a full sketchbook description, please see “Research”.
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