Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide is well established as the the best, fastest and most comprehensive quick artist index on the market today-- including over the internet. The new Gold Edition, commemorates the book's founder and original editor, Ray Davenport, who passed away earlier this year. The Gold Edition contains basic biographical and price information on over 250,000 artists-- 10,000 more artists than the previous edition. Each artist listing includes the artist's full name and data, when available, like birth and death dates, nationality, specialties (painter, sculptor, etc.), subject matters, auction prices, price ranges, notations of specific auctions where the artist's art has sold, references to books with additional biographical information, and approximate sizes of listings in those books. Also included for the first time is a signature directory containing over 1,000 artist signatures, primarily Old Masters, but also other early artists, all pre-1900.

In addition to the new artist entries, tens of thousands of older artist entries have been revised and updated. High and low end prices are now included for many artists, making overall market data more accurate for those artists. When available, auction price results are also included for various mediums in which an individual artist worked such as paintings, drawings, watercolors, or prints. And the number of auction houses now providing data to Davenport's has doubled to over 600.

The great advantage of Davenport's over other art reference books and online databases is that you can find out almost instantly whether an artist is known and whether or not his or her work has sold at auction. And seeing as it's a book and not a CD-ROM or online database, you can use it fast when you're out in the field just like in the good old days before computers. With Davenport's, you find the name fast and then find out where to go next. The best part about the index is that it provides data on numerous obscure and minor artists, many of whom are listed hardly anywhere else.

Now for the mechanics-- how Davenport's works. The final notation at the end of many artist entries is a date in brackets like [1996]. A bracketed date indicates the most recent year that a listing was updated. Entries that have no bracketed dates, but have auction price results were last updated in the year of the most recent auction record. While an artist's basic biographical information changes little or not at all from year to year, his or her price information can change dramatically. In instances were artist listings have not been updated in recent years, price data may be outdated, and relying on outdated prices may be hazardous to your wallet.

A number of artist entries have no auction records, but rather price range data such as 300-700. Price ranges are used when no auction sales data is available, can be misleading, and should only be used as very rough indications of the value of an artist's art. Many price ranges were approximated years ago and are, at best, educated guesses as to the value of particular artists' art.

Price ranges are in the process of being eliminated and replaced with actual auction results as they become available, but due to the huge number of artists in the index and the number of minor artists whose art rarely appears at auction, this process is expected to take some time. Davenport's editors no longer use price ranges for newly listed artists; only specific sales results are now included. Additional instructions on how to use Davenport's can be found on page 27 of the book-- read them.

No matter what form you find your prices, use Davenport's as a starting point for more extensive research. Never use Davenport's values as the sole basis for buying, selling, or otherwise transacting in original works of art. Got that? Good.

In spite of its weaknesses, Davenport's continues to improve and is still the most frequently used art reference book in my library-- and I've got just about every standard artist dictionary, encyclopedia, index, price guide, who's who, CD-ROM, and online database at my fingertips. When someone asks me a question about an artist whose name I'm not familiar with, Davenport's is almost always the first book I check. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If you can afford to buy only one art reference book, make it Davenport's.

Davenport's Art Reference & Price Guide, Gold Edition edited by Lisa Reinhardt, Gordon's Art Reference, Inc., Phoenix, AZ, 2003, hardbound, 2256 pages, 9 by 11 1/4 inches, $199.

Available from Gordon's Art Reference, Inc., 306 West Coronado Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85003-1147 or call 1-800-892-4622 or order directly from the Gordon's Art Reference website.

divider line

Current Features

Services for Artists and Collectors


  • artbusiness on Facebook
  • Artbusiness on Twitter
  • Artbusiness on Instagram