Hardcover · 7.5 × 10.5 inches · 128 pages
Art/Art History · 144 four-color illustrations · $40
ISBN: 978-0-922233-53-3

Publication date: April 7, 2024

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“Art lives forever. Artists don’t, but, as Deaths of Artists shows in mesmerizing fashion, they often leave the scene with a flourish. For a surprising number of the great, and not-so-great, death turned out to be a masterpiece.”
William Grimes, obituary writer, The New York Times
“Fascinating, poignant, and just the right amount of macabre, Deaths of Artists is an evocative modern analogue to Vasari's Lives of the Artists. In its central figure, Jim Moske has uncovered one of the most improbable and enigmatic characters in a great museum's history.”
Patrick Bringley, author, All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me
Deaths of Artists
From the Archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Jim Moske with a foreword by Robert Storr

Deep in the archives of The Metropolitan Museum of Art are two strange old scrapbooks packed with newspaper obituaries of painters, illustrators, sculptors, and photographers, famous and forgotten alike. Somber death notices of luminaries like Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin are preserved on their crumbling pages, side by side with tragic, often grisly stories of obscure artists. Compiled from 1906 to 1929, the scrapbooks not only memorialize the subjects of the obits; they also exhibit the sensationalized reporting typical of the heyday of yellow journalism.

Who collected these nearly three thousand obituaries of artists? Some had celebrated careers, some became celebrated only posthumously, and some met their demise poverty-stricken, victims of accident,  murder, or disease. In Deaths of Artists Moske unravels the improbable story of how an ex-convict and aspiring artist hired in 1894 as a Met Museum guard—Arthur D’Hervilly—came to assemble this massive chronicle. Moske’s engaging narrative is illustrated with full-page images of scrapbook pages, headlines, and paintings and sculptures by the artist-subjects. The deaths of artists, seen in the light of their uncommon lives, add up to much more than a litany of sad ends. In this eerie glimpse into a dark side of art history and creative practice, Moske illuminates the unique challenges artists face, exceptional risks they take, and the cruel turns of fate that often thwart their efforts.

“Surpassingly strange and utterly compelling, Deaths of Artists is one man's trip down another man's rabbit hole. The amassment of tales of artists' demise is at once revealing of the cultural stereotyping of artists and a giddy salute to yellow journalism and the lurid subgenre of obituary headline writing. Impossible to set aside!”
Mary Roach, author Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
“We always knew there were treasures in our beloved Metropolitan Museum, but Moske struck gold when he discovered this trove of artist obituaries. In lesser hands, these volumes would be mere curiosities on a shelf, but Moske plumbs their layers and meaning: the trope of the troubled artist, our hunger for myth-making, and the slippery business of legacy. In doing so, he reveals yet another treasure of The Met—the peculiar and devoted staff who quietly leave their mark on the great institution, often while no one is looking. Not only Arthur d’Hervilly, the endearing character behind these scrapbooks, but Moske himself, who patiently, beautifully, brings them back to life.”
Christine Coulson, author, One Woman Show and Metropolitan Stories

JIM MOSKE is an archivist and writer based in New York City. He was Managing Archivist of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 2008–23, and in earlier years was Archivist of the New York Public Library. Jim has published on topics including artwork provenance and transformational moments in the Met’s past. Deaths of Artists is his first book.