The quest for knowledge was always central to museum founders John and Dominique de Menil’s collection, exhibition, and interpretation of art, and they personally commissioned two catalogues raisonnés and one even larger project. In 1960, they themselves began an ambitious publishing endeavor to combat the racism they witnessed in the United States: The Image of the Black in Western Art. Instead of resulting in one book rather quickly, as Dominique de Menil first thought, Image of the Black entailed research and production offices in both Paris and Houston, and the first volume was not published until 1976. After four more volumes also in English and French editions, the project was transferred to Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Center, which published new, enhanced editions as well as commissioning more volumes. In 2014 the tenth book completed the original project. It spans 5,000 years in almost 4,000 pages and with 2,200+ illustrations.
It was John de Menil who first proposed compiling the catalogue raisonné of paintings by Rene Magritte (1898–1967), and in 1969 the British curator and art critic David Sylvester was entrusted with this task, which he completed with Sarah Whitfield. Five volumes, in English, were published between 1992 and 1997 (addendum 2012). Similarly, a German-language oeuvre katalog of the de Menils’ good friend Max Ernst (1891–1976)—who is represented in the collection by more than 200 works—began to be published in 1976 with the graphic work and first volume of paintings; to date Ernst’s works up to 1969 have been catalogued.