HISTORY OF THE PROJECT
In 1972, at the age of sixteen, Stephen Robeson Miller walked into Clapp and Tuttle Bookstore, Main Street South, Woodbury, Connecticut, and came across a copy of a catalogue rasionné titled Yves Tanguy: une recueil de ses oeuvres/A Summary of His Work, published eleven years earlier in an edition of 1200 numbered copies by Pierre Matisse Editions, New York. The catalogue had been compiled by Tanguy’s wife, Kay Sage, who had lived in Woodbury from 1941 until her death in 1963. As there was not a catalogue raisonné in existence about Sage at the time, Miller decided that he would do for her what she had done for Tanguy, and the idea of compiling a definitive Sage Catalogue Raisonné book was born.
During the next ten years, Miller collected images (in those days, in the form of 10 x 8 inch black and white glossy print photographs), exhibition history, provenance and bibliographic citations for all of Sage’s Surrealist works. In so doing, he had the cooperation and assistance of those who had exhibited her art (Pierre Matisse, Julien Levy, Catherine Viviano, Talcott B. Clapp, Gasparo del Corso, Nina Dausset); as well as the lawyer for her estate, John S. Monagan; her close friend, the Museum of Modern Art trustee and curator, James Thrall Soby; her photographer Alexandra Darrow; and her cousin Henry Sage Goodwin, to name but a few.
As the 1963 Tanguy catalogue raisonné included a chronology by art historian Lucy R. Lippard, Miller decided to compile an exhaustively detailed chronology for Sage. To do so, he conducted interviews and corresponded with dozens of her friends, Surrealist colleagues, and relatives in the United States and abroad, and interwove excerpts from these into what became a ninety page chronology of her life. Additionally, as the Tanguy catalogue raisonné included an extensive bibliography by the Museum of Modern Art's librarian Bernard Karpel, so too did Miller compile a complete bibliography for Sage.
In 1983, Miller had his “Illustrated Catalogue Raisonné of the Surrealist Art of Kay Sage” as well as his chronology and bibliography placed on microfilm at the Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., thereby establishing his expertise on the subject and intention to eventually publish them as a book on the model of the 1963 Tanguy catalogue raisonné. The Archives of American Art named Mr. Miller's collection of 2,000 papers "The Stephen Robeson Miller Research Material on Kay Sage" (microfilm reels nos. 2886–2888). (1)
Numerous scholars and curators have since consulted this microfilmed source, prompting one writer to state, “Stephen Robeson Miller’s unpublished catalogue raisonné of Sage’s art, now housed in the Archives of American Art, is the primary source for material on the artist. He has documented not only her work but also her life and included correspondence and interviews with many people who knew Sage.” (Salomon Grimberg, Woman’s Art Journal, vol. 20, no. 2, Fall 1999-Winter 2000, p. 57). Now, thirty years after the filming of Miller's archives, a number of publications about Sage have appeared, including four of Miller's own, such that the time has come to publish the definitive Sage Catalogue Raisonné book. Many of Sage’s works have changed hands; some that were missing have come to light, while others known to have existed are now lost, and still others have entered museum collections. Publication of the catalogue raisonné will permit an understanding of the development of Sage’s work as never before possible.
1. The Collection's summary provided online by the AAA is as follows: "A chronology of Sage's life; her medical history; and exhibition record; ca. 40 letters from Sage to her father, her stepmother, and her half-sister, Cornelia Mackin; letters from Miller to Sage's friends, family, and colleagues, and correspondence, 1973–1983 related to Sage's work; transcripts of interviews conducted by Miller with people who knew Sage; Sage's cancelled checks; bibliographic references assembled by Miller; Miller's master's thesis, 'The Art of Kay Sage,' Boston University, 1982; a catalogue raisonné by Miller, including ca. 200 photos of Sage's works; photos of Christmas cards by Sage and Tanguy; and 42 photos, 1898–ca. 1960 of Sage, her family and friends, and 12 photos of Sage's residence, 1957."
©2020 Kay Sage Catalogue Raisonné Project