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University Libraries

Art History: Guide to Research

All of the sources listed can be found in the University at Buffalo's Arts & Sciences Libraries or on the World Wide Web. This guide is a work in progress. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Getting started

Grove Dictionary of Art Online ;

An excellent starting place. Provides overviews and extensive coverage of all aspects of the arts worldwide, including art and artists, architecture and architects, painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, decorative arts, and planning. Entries include authoritative bibliographies. 

Gale Virtual Reference
Contains leads to full-text entries from authoritative subject encyclopedias and reference works published by Gale Research, Macmillan, Scribner's, and other Gale Group publishers.

History of Art (Janson) (APL, UGL/SEL, LML, APL Ref N 5300 J3)
A general art history text, such as this by Janson, can also provide excellent background and authoritative additional references.

Finding overviews

Encyclopedias/Dictionaries are also good starting places. They provide an overview of a topic, define terms and identify key people in the field. They include bibliographies that list additional books, articles, and other resources on the topic.

Contemporary Artists (LML Ref N6490 .C6566 1989; LML N6490 .C6566 1983; LML N6490 .C6566, 1977)
Contains brief biographies and comprehensive bibliographies by and about significant contemporary artists. Most entries include the artist's of intent, a critic's statement about the artist's work, and extensive bibliographies listing publications by and about the artist. Check both volumes, since they 1983 edition does not include all of 1977 edition.

International Dictionary of Art and Artists (LML, SEL/UGL Ref N31 .I58 1990) vol. I, Artists; vol. II, Art. Encyclopedia of European and American art and artists from the Renaissance to 1990. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.

Encyclopedia of World Art , 1959. (APL, LML, UGL/SEL Ref N31. E4833 and LML Book collection) 17 volumes, plus supplements. Index in vol. 15.
Arranged by time periods, provides detailed and authoritative essays on artists, architecture, and works of art. Use index in vol. 15 to locate information on specific artists, architects, buildings, time periods, and works of art. Includes extensive bibliographies as well as color plates. Includes detailed images, illustrations, and plans for art and architecture. Especially good for classical art and architecture.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Art , 1969. 5 volumes (LML Ref N33 .M23)
Over 15,000 entries, some signed with bibliographic references, covering art in all periods.

To find additional books and articles

Bibliographies, Guides and Handbooks can be very helpful. They often provide lists of books, journal articles, and other materials gathered by a knowledgeable researcher in your field. Examples include:

Art books: a basic bibliography of monographs on artists , 1997 (LML Ref N40 .F73 1997)
Authoritative source on 2,148 artists worldwide, across historical periods. Includes treatises, published dissertations, biographies, catalogues raisonnes and other works.

Art information: research methods and resources , 1990. ((APL, LML Ref N85 .J64 1990).
Comprehensive guide to understanding art methodology. Step-by-step guide to the research process. In art history.

Guide to art reference books , 1959. (LML Ref and LML Z5931 .C45).
Good reference for older materials. Updated by Arntzen & Rainwater (see entry 6) drawings, paintings, prints, photography, decorative and applied arts, architecture); Serials.

Guide to the literature of art history (Popularly known as Arntzen & Rainwater (LML Ref N380 .A67 1980)
Intended for serious students or art history, provides an annotated list of the major reference sources in art history. Covers all periods. Helpful in identifying authoritative works in specific areas of art history. Includes subject index.

Guide to the Literature of Art History 2 ( LML Ref N380 .A67 2005).
An impressive supplement to Arntzen & Rainwater's Guide to Literature of Art History, 1980. Does not cumulate previous content, so both volumes may need to be consulted.

Art History Resources .
A brief, excellent guide from UC/Berkeley on how to embark on art history research.

To find a subject bibliography on your subject

You should be aware that there are topographical art bibliographies, selected bibliographies, etc. To identify such publications, consult entries in encyclopedias like Grove online, Contemporary Artists , etc., or perform a BISON keyword search using the artist's name and bibliography or the name of the work of art and bibliography.

K = matisse AND K = bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés list the complete works of an artist, often including a comprehensive bibliography and can be useful in identifying additional information and verifying titles, dates, etc. Use a keyword search -- artist's name and the term (catalogue raisonne)

Picasso AND catalogue raisonne

Example: Picasso: the Blue and Rose Periods; a Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings, 1900-1906

To find books

Search the UB Libraries Catalog 

Keyword search enables you to combine keywords

Picasso AND surrealism
Dada OR surrealism

To find journal articles

Search databases that cover art and art history.  Some databases include the full text of articles or provide links to full text. Others are bibliographic and list only a citation, telling where the article can be found; still others are image databases. Link to databases on Resources by Subject - Art & Art History at

To find images and exhibitions

ARTstor ( )
The ARTstor Digital Archive Collection contains over 300,000 digital images and associated catalog data from notable art and architecture collections worldwide, from early antiquity to the present, spanning cultures and encompassing architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, design, and many other forms of visual culture. ARTstor also includes the tools to actively access, manipulate, and deliver these images. ARTstor now contains the Art History Survey Collection; the Carnegie Arts of the United States Collection; the Huntington Archive of Asian Art; the Museum of Modern Art Architecture and Design Collection; the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive of murals and texts from Buddhist cave shrines in China; and the Smithsonian Native American Art and Culture collection. Upcoming collections will include women in America, Hellenistic and Roman sculpture, the art and architecture of Islam, the image of the Black in Western Art, and more. 

Library Catalog (UB)
In Keyword search, enter a subject keyword, AND, and a second keyword term that indicates the image form, such as "image," "ill, ""photographs," "exhibition," etc.

Bridgeman Art Library and Art Resource.
Accessible via Grove Online's image links, the Bridgeman Art Library provides searching of over 100,000 art images from major international museums, galleries and auction houses, including the British Museum and the British Library, the National Galleries of Scotland, Sweden and South Africa, the Hamburg Kunsthalle, and major collections in France and Italy, as well as the Harvard Art Museums, Yale Center for British Art, the museums of Detroit, Houston and Phoenix, plus the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania. Also accessible through Grove, Art Resource is a fully searchable collection of 90,000 important images in art history, especially of twentieth-century art.

Google Image Search ( )
A searchable image database of over 425 million images. Use advanced Google Image to define terms.

National Gallery of Art ( )
In addition to images, also contains curatorial records and often bibliographies.

In the advanced keyword search, enter a subject keyword, AND, and a second keyword term that indicates the image form, such as "image," "ill, ""photographs," "exhibition" etc use the keyword search and enter keywords.

World Architecture Index: a Guide to Illustrations (APL NA 202 T4 1991)
Indexes architectural works worldwide reproduced in more than 100 books covering architecture, engineering and planning. Provides citations to works containing reproductions of exterior and interior views, plans, sections. 

See also Image Searching

Web sites

Web sites can be excellent starting points for information on every aspect of art. These are some of the best, but a word of caution! Although the Web offers a wealth of information, be sure to evaluate the reliability and currency of web sites.

Getty Vocabulary Databases
Produced and maintained by the Getty Vocabulary Program, the Getty Vocabulary databases contain terms, names, and other information about people, places, things, and concepts relating to art, architecture, and material culture. Included are the Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)® , a searchable database of artists and geographic names'; the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) , a structured vocabulary of more than 133,000 terms, descriptions, bibliographic citations, and other information relating to the visual arts; and the Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)® , a structured, vocabulary of 1.3 million names, including vernacular and historical names, coordinates, place types, and descriptive notes, focusing on places worldwide important for the study of art and architecture.

Mother of All Art History
This site links to Internet resources related to art & art history. Categories include: Art History Departments; Research Resources; Resources for Visual Collections; Image Collections & Online Art; Fine Art Schools & Departments, Textual & Linguistic and Art Portals.

National Gallery of Art
In addition to images, contains curatorial records and often bibliographies.

Timeline of Art History
A chronological, geographical, and thematic timeline of the history of world art with illustrations from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection. Includes subject, artist, and accession number indexes. Continually updated. Covers the period from prehistory to 1800 A.D. and will continue to expand in scope and depth.