Art History Resources

Getting Started

Keywords: Think about the titles of works that you need to study (be aware that if the original title was in another language, you might find variations on the translated title), the genre (classical, modern, Dadaist, flash...), and artists and groups that are involved in the form you are researching. Boundaries are not clear-cut between styles and some artists cross perceived boundaries. This can give you many choices for your research, but can also make it hard to stay focused on a topic precise enough for a good paper.

Encyclopedias, dictionaries and indexes are a good place to start your research. They can help you identify a topic for your paper, and often include useful bibliographies.

  • Dictionary of Art; REF N31 .D5 1996
    Published by Grove, one of the premier publishers on art and music topics.
  • Penguin Concise Dictionary of Art History; REF N5300 .F64 2000
  • Atlas of Western Art History: Artists, Sites, and Movements from Ancient Greece to the Modern Age; REF G1046 .E64 S7 1994  


A research paper on art is not a review of a exhibit you attended or what you think about an artist. It should study the artist's life, influences or other topic as your instruction specifies. You need to do research and find the number of materials required by your instructor on your topic to write a decent paper. Depending on how much time you have, you have a couple of options for where you can search:

Useful Subject Terms

Can't think of terms to accurately describe your topic?  Library catalogs use specific subject headings to group related books together. 'Art' is such a large topic, you will want to think of ways to narrow it down, by time period, geography, style, specific artist, culture, etc. Ask a librarian to help, or here are some examples to think about:


Art--History--20th Century (note the time limiter, there can also be geographic limiters)

National Endowment For The Arts--History  (history of an arts-related agency or organization)

Art, Primitive

Berenson, Bernard, 1865-1959  (note the last name, first name format when looking for a person as subject. This also is the format to use when looking for a work by a specific author.)

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) Museums or other exhibition sites can be listed as alternate authors or subjects.

Mural Painting And Decoration--Ancient Egypt (type of art, limited by geographic region and time period)


Arts-related journals include some of the latest research in the field as well as discussion of specific aspects of art such as history, genre, artists and movements. Journals are a good source for finding very detailed information on your topic. It is best to start with a couple of books before diving into journals to get ideas on terms to use in your search as you will get so many hits on the 'big picture'. To search for articles, you need to start with research databases.  Each will allow you to search hundreds or even thousands of journals at once. Some databases are directories, rather than full-text collections. Use the Check SFX for Availability link to check our other resources for the full text of the article. The first choice to make is which databases to look in first! Check the Visual Arts Databases link for recommendations.

Depending on your topic, you may find other databases useful as well (e.g., Art History should search the History databases.)



This is a representative sample of Art History sources on the web. Check the Museums tab to see other sources on Art History.

Art History Resources on the Web
Maintained by Christopher Witcombe of Sweet Briar College, this site offers links to materials either by time period or geographic region.

Eighteenth-Century Resources: Art, Architecture, Landscape Gardening
Resources, museums and sites sorted by artist at Rutgers University. 

Mother of All Art and Art History Links Page
Maintained by the School of Art & Design at University of Michigan, this site provides links to art schools/departments, research resources, collections, exhibitions, museums and new media.

Resources in Art History for Graduate Students
A list of links, conferences, research award, publication opportunities and for the graduate researcher in Art History.

Timeline of Art History
A very detailed site provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art using images from their vast collections. Included are special topics indexes, artist index, subject index, maps and more. The periods covered run from prehistory through present day. 

The Victorian Web: Arts in Victorian Britain
Links to a variety of resources on Victorian art, printmaking, photography, fine arts and more.

Voice of the Shuttle: Art History
A large and well-organized site providing links to art history topics divided by general, geography, theory and more categories.