The award of Mitchell prizes for outstanding publications in art history resumed this year after a one-year gap in 1999 (when the Mitchell Trustees gave special millennial awards for lifetime achievement to Julius Held and Jean Sutherland Boggs). The award ceremony—which alternates each year between New York and London—was held on 14 November at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Because of the gap, the judges—Nicholas Penny (Chairman), John Elderfield and Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann—considered books published in both 1998 and 1999 for the main prize, which was awarded to David Anfam’s Mark Rothko: the works on canvas (Yale University Press in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1998). The judges considered that Anfam’s book set new standards for catalogue raisonnés of paintings of this period and, as John Golding observed, the introductory essays “contain the most visually analytic account of Rothko’s development ever written”. David Anfam, who is commissioning editor at Phaidon Press, has written Abstract Expressionism (1990), Franz Kline: black and white, 1950–61 (1994) and, as editor, American art in the 20th century (1993); he is currently researching the work of Clyfford Still. Special commendation was given by the judges to a remarkable first book, Carmen Bambach’s Drawing and painting in the Italian Renaissance workshop (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
In a new development for the Mitchell Prizes, an award was made this year for an outstanding exhibition catalogue published in 1999, a welcome development, given the demise of the Minda de Gunzburg Prize. The judges chose Adriaen de Vries: imperial sculptor, edited by Frits Scholten (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in association with Waanders Publishers, Zwolle,1999). They felt that this was a catalogue which contained a great deal of new research (including archival and technical discoveries), while the exhibition itself had introduced to a wider public the work of a great sculptor, hitherto known largely to specialists. As Anthony Radcliffe remarked that this superb catalogue is “now the indispensable standard work of reference on the subject”. Frits Scholten, who edited and wrote a large part of the catalogue, is currently acting head of exhibitions at the Rijksmuseum, and has been head of the department of sculpture, to which he expects to return. He is preparing an exhibition on the forerunner of de Vries, Willem van Tetrode, and is completing a major study of Dutch 17th-century tomb sculpture. Special commendation was also given to Portraits by Ingres: image of an epoch, edited by Gary Tinterow and Philip Conisbee (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1999).
The awards were presented by Mr Jan Mitchell, who founded the Mitchell Prize in 1977 to draw attention to exceptional published achievements in the history of art in the English language. Jan Mitchell is a lifelong collector and a Trustee of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, which houses in the Jan Mitchell Treasury, his collection of pre-Columbian gold, donated to the museum in 1993.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Rothko “sets new standards”'