“Famous Artist Dies Penniless and All Alone.” “Artist Recluse Dies Among Works.” “Burned Artist Succumbs to Fate He Long Dreaded.” These sensationally macabre headlines burst from the page as archivist Jim Moske carefully leafed through the delicate, time-worn pages of two curious scrapbooks found deep within The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Transfixed by these long-forgotten artifacts, Moske embarked on a journey to unravel the mysteries of their origin. Who created these morbid mementos? Why? How did they end up in storage at one of the world’s most illustrious art museums? And what could the books tell us not just about the deaths of artists, but also their lives and legacies?

On May 16th, join Untapped New York Founder Michelle Young and author Jim Moske for a live virtual talk on his recently released book, Deaths of Artists: From the Archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art! This virtual talk is free for Untapped New York Insiders! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today with promo code JOINUS and get your first month free!

Deaths of Artists: From the Archives of The Met Book Talk

Deaths of Artists book cover and author headshot

Moske stumbled upon these peculiar scrapbooks in 2018 while searching The Met archive for artifacts to include in a forthcoming exhibition on the museum’s 150th anniversary. They were oddly out of place in the archive and there was no need for them in the exhibit, but Moske was intrigued. Instead of putting them back on the shelf to slip further into obscurity, he began to comb through them meticulously.

Deaths of Artists obituary newspaper clippings
Image from Deaths of Artists, Courtesy of Blast Books

The two scrapbooks held thousands of obituaries of painters, sculptors, and photographers of the early twentieth century. Organized in chronological order by publication date, all the articles pasted inside were published between 1906 and 1929. The strange assemblage of clippings seemed to provide a foil to the work of 16th-century biographer Giorgio Vasari’s The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (often called simply Lives of the Artists), which provided a record of the lives and works of hundreds of Renaissance artists. Was the collector of the obituary clippings intentionally paying homage to Vasari?

Reports of the demise of such luminaries as Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and sculptor Auguste Rodin, names we recognize more than a century later, can be found among the clippings. However, the obituaries that often stood out most to Moske were those of artists once lauded and well-known in their time but forgotten by modern society. Such was the case with Imogene Robinson Morrell, “one of the most noted women painters of this country” who died “in her humble room in a cheap boarding house.” Why do some artists stand the test of time while others slip from memory?

Deaths of Artists  obituary newspaper clippings
Image from Deaths of Artists, Courtesy of Blast Books

In Deaths of Artists, the reader joins Moske as he untangles the questions provoked by these enigmatic artifacts. Interwoven with the narrative of Moske’s research into the books’ origin and the life story of their creator, he provides deep dives into a selection of the obituaries. These stories reveal “the unique challenges that artists face, the exceptional risks they take, and the cruel turns of fate that often thwart their efforts,” Moske writes in the book’s introduction.

You’ll learn about Ella Finley, a painter and sculptor who spent her final weeks striving to complete a self-portrait despite her deteriorating state; August Obermüller, a photographer who drowned in a vat of photo chemicals; Adolphe Steinheil, an artist whose violent murder led to a scandalous trial in France, and many more.

Deaths of Artists obituary newspaper clippings
Image from Deaths of Artists, Courtesy of Blast Books

These narratives are enhanced by full-page images of scrapbook pages and close-up photos of shocking obituary headlines. There are also images of paintings and sculptures by the artist-subjects and more unique documents from the Met archives included in Moske’s book.

Learn more about Deaths of Artists by joining author Jim Moske and Untapped New York Founder Michelle Young for a live, virtual talk on May 16th! This virtual talk is free for Untapped New York Insiders! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today with promo code JOINUS and get your first month free!

Deaths of Artists: From the Archives of The Met Book Talk

Deaths of Artists book cover and author headshot

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