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How to Get Rich as an Artist: The Case of Félix Ziem—Evidence from His Account Book from 1850 through 1883 Léa Saint-Raymond Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide , Vol. 15, No. 1 (Spring 2016) Stable URL: spring16/saint-raymond-on-how-to-get-rich-as-an-artist-felix-ziem Published by: Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art Notes: This PDF is provided for reference purposes only and may not contain all the functionality or features of the original, online publication. ©2016 Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide Accessed: 16 March 2016
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How to Get Rich as an Artist: The Case of Félix Ziem—Evidence from His Account Book from 1850 through 1883 by Léa Saint-Raymond Félix Ziem (1821–1911) was one of the wealthiest artists in nineteenth-century France. Recognized as the “painter of Venice,” he made his reputation in the 1850s by displaying his landscapes at the Paris Salon. In 1910, thanks to a bequest of Alfred Chauchard that included a number of his paintings, he became the first artist whose works entered the Louvre Museum during his lifetime. To what did the artist owe his fame and fortune? The key to understanding his reputation and, especially, his monetary success, is his account book, which he kept meticulously for more than thirty years, from 1850 to 1883. [1] The aim of this article is to open this “black box” in order to understand both his economic success and the social networks at its core. For an art historian, artists’ account books are all the more valuable, as they are rare. [2] Unlike the more common dealers’ ledgers, which concern both first-hand and second-hand sales, Ziem’s account book only provides information about the works he sold directly to his customers, or, what we might call the primary art market. To properly understand Ziem’s account book, I have used a methodology that takes into consideration its quantitative and serial aspects. The analysis is thus based on econometrics, social network analysis, and mapping. What Can Be Learned from Félix Ziem’s Account Book Owned by the Musée Ziem in Martigues, France, the account book is an 86-page notebook recording the artist’s sales transactions from 1849 to 1883 (fig. 1). In leafing through the notebook, it quickly becomes clear that Ziem changed the notation as time went by. In 1849, he began his accounting with a two-column assets vs. liabilities format. While Ziem always recorded the name of the person he was dealing with and the amount of the transaction, the description of the artworks and the number of works sold were usually missing. One year later, his bookkeeping became more precise: Ziem recorded the number of paintings and watercolors that he sold. This is why our analysis of Ziem’s account book starts from 1850. From 1854, the descriptions of the paintings or watercolors he sold became more precise, now including terms such as “Venice sunset,” “small Montmartre,” “big Venice,” and “Venice party.” The year 1863 witnessed a shift in the accounting: Ziem stopped recording the capital income from the annuities, bonds, and shares he owned. At the same time, he began giving more specific
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  • Summer '14
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