Art History

Painting by Alfred Stevens. In the Studio from 1888. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Alfred Stevens, In the Studio, 1888. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York.

Guide to Finding the Best Resources

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective information research in art history.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Meredith Wisner
Meredith Wisner

General Reference | Journal Articles | Books | Primary Sources

Specialized Databases | Images & Media | Writing About Art | Bibliography Resources

Using this guide: Starred (★) databases indicate some of the best bets for beginning your art history research. The dates noted in parenthesis under “Journal Articles” refer to the publication dates of articles included in each database. The following are the Library of Congress subject headings for the arts:


    NA          Architecture

    NB          Sculpture

    NC          Drawing. Design. Illustration

    ND          Painting

    NE          Print media

    NK          Decorative arts

    NX          Arts in general

    TR          Photography

    TT          Handicrafts. Arts and crafts


General Reference

Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon Online (Artists of the World Online): This database is the world's most contemporary, reliable and extensive reference work on artists. It contains authoritative, up-to-date biographical information on more than 1 million artists.

Dictionary of Art Historians: A biographical and methodological database intended as a beginning point to learning the background of major art historians of western art history.

Heilbrunn Timeline of the History of Art: The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History presents the Met’s collection via a chronological, geographical, and thematic exploration of global art history. Authored by the Met’s experts the Timeline comprises 300 timelines, 930 essays, close to 7,000 objects, and a robust index, and is regularly updated and enriched to provide new scholarship and insights on the collection.

Oxford Art OnlineOxford Art Online is the access point for Grove Art Online and the Benezit Dictionary of Artists, and other Oxford art reference resources. It Contains subject entries, biographies, bibliographic citations, images, and image links.

Journal Articles

ARTBibliographies Modern (Proquest 1960s - to date): ABM provides full abstracts of journal articles, books, essays, exhibition catalogs, PhD dissertations, and exhibition reviews on all forms of modern and contemporary art. The coverage includes performance art, installation works, video art, computer and electronic art, body art, graffiti, artist's books, theatre arts, conservation, crafts, ceramic and glass art, ethnic arts, graphic and museum design, fashion, and calligraphy, as well as traditional media including illustration, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and drawing.

Bibliography of the History of Art (Online 1973 - 2007): BHA indexes literature on western art in periodicals, books, exhibition catalogs, and dissertations; with abstracts through 2007.  Includes Répertoire de la litterature de l'art (RILA) 1975–1989.

International Bibliography of Art (Proquest 1990s - to date): The definitive resource for scholarly literature on Western art, IBA is the successor to the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA), and retains the editorial policies which made BHA one of the most trusted and frequently consulted sources in the field.

Art & Architecture Source (EBSCO 1937 to date): Art Source contains Art Full Text, Art & Architecture Complete, Art Retrospective, and including many unique sources.It features full-text articles, indexing and abstracts for an array of journals, books and more.

Index to 19th Century American Periodicals (EBSCO 1800 - 1899): Indexes 42 art journals published in the US during the 19th century, providing nearly complete coverage of journals from this period. The Index describes the entire journal contents articles, art notes, illustrations, stories, poems, and advertisements.

CAA Reviews: Founded in 1998, this resource publishes timely scholarly and critical reviews of studies and projects in all areas and periods of art history, visual studies, and the fine arts, providing peer review for the disciplines served by the College Art Association.

Selected Specialized Databases:


Note: this is a very small selection of specialized databases related to the history of art. For a more complete list you can browse the databases in CLIO by discipline and resource type. 

ABIA South and Southeast Asian Art and Archaeology Index: A bibliographic database on South and Southeast Asian art and archaeology compiled by an international team of specialists. ABIA index supplies annotated and indexed entries on scholarly publications in Asian and European languages relating to prehistory, (proto) historical archaeology, art history (including modern art), material culture, epigraphy, palaeography, numismatics and sigillography.

ArtSearch: Consists of Design Abstract Retrospective (DAR), covers many of the most important design and applied arts journals and annuals published during the 20th century; Design ProFILES, a biographical dictionary of modern designers, craftspeople, artists and architects; and ReVIEW, digitized, searchable full-text versions of 19th and early 20th century art journals.

Design and Applied Art Index: International index to over 130,000 annotated references from more than 500 design and craft journals and newspapers published from 1973 onwards, and data on over 50,000 designers, craftspeople, studios, workshops and firms. DAAI also includes two supplementary databases: Education Directory, an international directory of universities and colleges that offer courses in design and craft subjects and the Periodical Directory, an international directory of design and craft journals. Research articles are covered, along with topical news items, conference and seminar reports, and book, video and exhibition reviews.

Index of Medieval Art: Formerly the Index of Christian Art, The index of Medieval Art is a thematic and iconographic index of medieval art that encompasses early Christian, Jewish and Islamic works from the first centuries of the common era to the 16th century. Entries include descritpive information, provenance, location and ownership information, bibliographical references, and when available, photographic reproductions of the works themselves.

Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Contains electronic resources for researchers in the study and teaching of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400-1700). Enables users to access citations in journal, book, and reviews databases; provides online access to Paul Oskar Krisetller's Iter Italicum (a finding list of Renaissance humanistic manuscripts); provides access to the International Directory of Scholars (a comprehensive directory of contact information, and information on the research and teaching careers of scholars around the world). Subscription includes a membership to the Renaissance Society of America.



CLIO: provides access to the holdings of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard Library, but excluding Teachers College and the Law Library.

WorldCat: Contains over 48 million records, covering all materials cataloged by OCLC member libraries around the world. Searches libraries worldwide. If a title isn't available via Columbia University Libraries, you may request it via Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan.

Getty Research Portal: This free online search platform provides global access to digitized art history texts in the public domain. Through this multilingual, multicultural union catalog, scholars can search and download complete digital copies of publications for the study of art, architecture, material culture, and related fields.

Arcade: NYARC Arcade unites the collections of the Frick Art Reference Library and the libraries of the Brooklyn Museum and The Museum of Modern Art. It provides access to research collections spanning the spectrum of art history, from ancient Egypt to contemporary art. Virtual Catalogue for Art History, formerly the VKK, is an international  specialized meta catalogue allowing the integrated retrieval of bibliographic records and, should the occasion arise, other objects of distinctive art historical databases.

Primary Sources

Archive Finder: This database is a directory of primary source material from repositories and collections in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

ArchiveGrid: This is a database that includes over four million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

Artists' Papers Register: The Register includes papers relating to painters, sculptors, designers, design groups and studios, craftspeople, those engaged in design occupations within manufacturing, and others – such as curators and historians – associated with these activities, regardless of nationality or status.

MoMA Archives: The MoMA Archives was established in 1989 to collect, organize, preserve, and make accessible documentation concerning the Museum's art-historical and cultural role in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is also an internationally recognized center of research for primary source material concerning many aspects of modern and contemporary art, including private archives that may be the papers of artists, collectives, galleries, dealers, art historians, critics, etc.

Smithsonian Archives of American Art: With over 20 million items in its continually growing collections, the Archives is the world’s largest and most widely used resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America.


Women Artists Archives National Directory: WAAND is a directory to archival collection by and about  women visual artists active in the United States since 1945. In addition to individual women artists (both US and foreign born), WAAND also directs users to primary source material about the organizations, collectives, publications, alternative spaces, and artists' communitites where these visual artists worked or continue to work today.


WorldCat: Contains over 48 million records - including archival materials - covering all materials cataloged by OCLC member libraries around the world. Searches libraries worldwide.


Images & Media

Artstor: Provides more than one million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences with a suite of tools for  research.

AP Images: Current year and 750,000+ back to the 1840s.  Also graphics, maps, illustrations, and logos dating back to the 1920s with AP also.

Europeana: is a digital library containing 4 million items, including images, texts, audio and video, from European museums, galleries, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections.

Google Art Project: An online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks housed in the initiative’s partner   museums - more than 32,000 artworks from 46 collections - including the Tate Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Uffizi, Florence.

NYPL Digital Gallery: Over 700,000 images digitized from the New York Public Library's vast collections including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs.

Writing About Art


Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing About ArtUpper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2010.

Booth, Wayne C., Colomb, Gregory G. and Williams, Joseph M. The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.


Munsterberg, Marjorie. Writing About Art. 2008 - 2009. 

Pop, Andrei. How to Do Things with Pictures: A Guide to Writing in Art History. Cambridge: Harvard University, 2008. (free to download)


Bibliograpy Resources

  • CiteSource (Trinity College) and Purdue OWL (Purdue University Online Writing Lab) offer free online resources for creating footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies in a variety of citation styles (including Chicago and MLA).

  • Zotero is a software platform that allows you to save resources you find in library catalogues, databases, as well as pages from the web. It can even pull the full text pdf associated with a catalog record when available. With Zotero you can organize your research and export resources into a word document formatted to whatever citation style you require.